The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping Roman Wilson emerges as their next starting wide receiver. To that end, new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni is doing everything at his disposal to give him that chance. The rookie has a lot of potential, but also, as Azzanni is showing him, a lot to learn.

“He probably loves to go home at night and get away from this building”, he said of Wilson, via the team’s website. “I’m all over him, man. I have to be. We’ve got a limited amount of time to get a guy ready to play an NFL football game”.

A third-round pick out of Michigan, Roman Wilson comes into the league with some advantages. He played at the college level for Jim Harbaugh, who knows quite a bit about the NFL. He played quarterback in the league and coached a team to a Super Bowl appearance. Wilson’s Wolverines are also coming off a national title run. But they aren’t NFL players, not yet, anyway.

“I always say we’re taking players and making them into professionals”, Azzanni said, referring not just to Wilson but all young players he coaches. “They’re players when they come from college. They’re not all instant professionals. There’s a lot that goes into playing at the NFL level, and if you’re not ready to go Week 1, you get exposed. There’s a growing pain process there, So I’ve got to be all over him from the second he walks in this building to the second he leaves at night. I have a limited amount of time to do it, and that’s my job. So I’m gonna squeeze every bit I can out of that sponge”.

To his credit, Wilson has been playing the role of sponge since he got here. It’s unfortunate that the Steelers don’t have a true established veteran presence in the locker room at wide receiver. But Azzanni has a no-nonsense attitude that should benefit the entire wide receiver room and keep them focused and goal-oriented.

Wilson caught 107 passes for 1,707 yards and 20 touchdowns during his college career. His production leans heavily toward his senior season, during which he caught 48 passes for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns.

And the Steelers have an opening in the starting lineup at wide receiver thanks to their trading Diontae Johnson. While they still have George Pickens, they don’t have another clear-cut starter who doesn’t have to earn the job. Roman Wilson is right in the mix with Calvin Austin III, Van Jefferson, and whatever other name you prefer.

My sense is that Wilson is embracing Azzanni’s coaching, but perhaps it’s too early to tell. Everything tends to go smoothly during OTAs and minicamp, even Pickens playing the model citizen. We might know more as training camp goes on about how well he is taking to the Steelers’ coaching. But the best gauge of that will be how quickly he gets on the field and starts contributing meaningfully. That is the end goal of all this coaching, after all, isn’t it?


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