Will the Steelers finally have a threatening deep passing game again?

Once upon a time, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a threatening deep passing game. They had deep threats like Mike Wallace and Martavis Bryant, and Ben Roethlisberger could sling the ball downfield. However, they have lacked elite deep threats in recent years. More concerning, they have lacked the arms to get the ball down there consistently and accurately.

The Steelers have a guy in George Pickens who can get down the field right now. He actually led the NFL with 18.1 yards per reception last year, thanks to a late-season run of big plays. And potentially Russell Wilson and Justin Fields bring more to the table from the passing perspective.

Last season, for example, Wilson threw for over 1,000 yards on what Pro Football Reference defines as deep pass attempts. That wasn’t quite the 1,500-plus yards of C.J. Stroud, but the Steelers’ passing game under Arthur Smith may help, too.

Many are questioning the Steelers’ depth at the wide receiver position. What they do have, however, are guys who can run. Quez Watkins, Calvin Austin III, and Scotty Miller are all deep-threat guys who can carve out a niche. At least one or two of them might.

So, with a new quarterback, new receivers, and a new offense, is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ deep passing game back on the menu? Not just in spurts, but as a basic feature of the offense? I think that is what they are hoping for, but we will have to wait and see if they get it. The incorporation of more play-action passing will be an asset to their efforts to push the ball down the field.

One interesting development is Pickens himself. How much volume will the Steelers throw his way, and with what variety? Can he become a possession-capable receiver who is also a big-play threat? Or will they need the likes of Roman Wilson and Van Jefferson to step into that niche?

The Steelers’ 2023 season has been put out of its misery, ending as so many have before in recent years: a disappointing, blowout playoff loss. The only change-up lately is when they miss the playoffs altogether. But with the Buffalo Bills stamping them out in the Wildcard Round, they have another long offseason ahead.

The biggest question hanging over the team is the quarterback question. Does Russell Wilson make them a Super Bowl-caliber team, or are they wasting a year? Will he play just one season in Pittsburgh before moving on, or the Steelers moving on from him? How will the team address the depth chart?

The Steelers are past free agency and the draft and their roster for the 2024 season is coming into focus. They made numerous moves through signings and trade—and release. More than usual, they seemed comfortable creating holes, confident they can fill them. Now that we have so many pieces of the puzzle, however, we merely have a new set of questions to ask.


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