Heitritter: Pittsburgh’s slot receiver options will give opposing defenses headaches

Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have many options at receiver after Chase Claypool was traded to the Chicago Bears. Steven Sims ended up getting a major run in Pittsburgh’s three-WR sets during the season, while Gunner Olszewski also factored in jet sweeps and other packages.

While the team has Calvin Austin III returning from injury this season as well as veteran WR Anthony Miller as another viable slot option with NFL experience, the Steelers came out and acquired WR Allen Robinson II. of the Los Angeles Rams, getting a big target body for QB Kenny Pickett who is also a subtle road runner for his size and has recorded 33.6% of his snaps from the slot in 2022. Having 1,215 career snaps from the Inside, Robinson is more than capable of operating from the slot and giving Pittsburgh a wide receiver built in a different mold than Austin or Miller, with the skills to be a possession receiver in the middle. and do those hard takes.

Another factor to consider when discussing slotting options for the Steelers in 2023 is TEs. Alex Kozora referenced the “big gap” package in a recent article, discussing how Pittsburgh can separate its TEs and FBs from the LOS. Last season, TE Pat Freiermuth recorded 191 slot snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and made several plays on his feet and he didn’t line up as a TE in line, being more of a pumped WR .

Pittsburgh recently drafted a walking high-rise at TE Darnell Washington, who is known to be a terrific blocker but has also shown skill in being a good pass receiver. Washington played throughout the formation at Georgia, lining up in line, out and in the slot, using his size and strength against smaller DBs or less athletic LBs tasked with covering him one-on-one. head. The combination of Robinson, Freiermuth and Washington presents matchmaking issues for opposing defenses given their size and catching radius against smaller defenders.

Add in TE/FB Connor Heyward, who saw some runs split as a wide receiver last season, and the Steelers are in good shape when it comes to their options at slot receiver as well as the various skill sets including they dispose to beat opposing defenses. They can choose to win with speed using Austin, or they can choose to win with size and strength, deploying Freiermuth or Washington in the slot near the red zone. If you include Robinson, who is a good mix between the two, you have a passing game ready to take a noticeable leap forward, especially from the slot machine.

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