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Ray Fittipaldo Sees Wide Receiver As ‘In Play’ For Steelers’ First-Round Draft Pick

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The Pittsburgh Steelers need another starting-quality wide receiver in a bad way, and they’re not getting one in free agency. They already signed two veterans out of the bargain bin after trading away Diontae Johnson. It’s just a day after Easter but they’ve put all their eggs in one basket already: the 2024 NF Draft.

Everyone knows the Steelers are targeting a wide receiver early, we just don’t know how early. Most agree that an offensive lineman may come first. Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette agrees. However, he tells Joe Starkey on 93.7 The Fan not to rule out a round-one option.

I think receiver is in play at number 20”, he said late last week on the air. “I still think an offensive lineman is gonna be their first pick, but if not the first round, I think second round, third round at the latest. One of their first three picks, they’re gonna get a receiver”.

The Steelers’ only wide receiver of note is third-year George Pickens, at least after trading Johnson. They carry over Calvin Austin III from last season as well, but he has so much yet to prove. Recently, they added Quez Watkins and Van Jefferson one cheap, one-year deals, but they hardly fill out a starting lineup.

“When you need a starting receiver the way they do, somebody who can come in and make an impact right away, you should probably get that guy early”, Fittipaldo insisted, regarding their deficit at the position following the trade. “So I’m thinking first or second round”.

The Steelers have not drafted a wide receiver in the first round since the year before Mike Tomlin arrived. His predecessor, Bill Cowher, drafted Santonio Holmes in the first round in 2006. He had a short albeit brief career here that did not end on the terms either party cared for. However, he secured his legacy with a legendary touchdown-winning grab and the Super Bowl MVP that came with it.

While the Steelers are approaching two decades without a Day-One wide receiver, Day Two has been their sweet spot. In fact, they’ve emphasized it under Tomlin. Working backward, they drafted Pickens in the second round in 2022. Before him, they had 2020’s Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson in 2019, James Washington in 2018, and JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017. They also drafted Emmanuel Sanders, Sammie Coates, Mike Wallace, and Limas Sweed in that range. Martavis Bryant just missed the cut as a fourth-round selection.

Drafting a wide receiver in the second or third round would be the most Steelers thing to do. And the general consensus holds that you can get a starting-caliber receiver for this season in the second round.

But it’s the draft board that ultimately dictates the direction in which things go. There could be a run on tackles that precludes them from reaching, and perhaps C Jackson Powers-Johnson is gone, too. Or maybe nobody takes a center and they feel confident they can get one in the second round. Either way, don’t be surprised if they end up with a first-round receiver when all is said and done.

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