Pittsburgh Steelers Could Target Intriguing WR In Free Agency

Michael Thomas, Steelers, NFL
Oct 19, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) runs after a completion against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is going to look a lot different in 2024 than it has in recent seasons. They hired Arthur Smith, most recently the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, to become their next offensive coordinator.

Smith is known for getting the most out of his running backs, always scheming successful ground games during his stops in the NFL. He helped turn Derrick Henry into a star with the Tennessee Titans and got the most out of Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier with the Falcons.

That is excellent news for Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, one of the best running back duos in the NFL. But, how Smith handles the passing game will be what people pay attention to the most. Can Smith help develop Kenny Pickett, or will the Steelers go in a different direction at the position?

NFL News & Rumors: Michael Thomas, 2024 NFL Free Agency, Pittsburgh Steelers Updates

Whatever Pittsburgh opts to do, it would behoove them to continue adding talent at wide receiver. Diontae Johnson and George Pickens are a very good duo atop the depth chart, but the production behind them was lacking.

In 2023, the No. 3 role in the offense fell upon Allen Robinson, who was acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Rams. He played a ton of snaps but didn’t produce much. Part of that was a product of an inept Steelers passing offense, but Robinson hasn’t produced in several seasons.

He will likely be released as a cap casualty this offseason, opening up a void in the Steelers’ lineup. Who could Pittsburgh look to replace him with? One intriguing option is veteran free agent, Michael Thomas.

“Pittsburgh brought Allen Robinson aboard to serve as the big slot possession receiver in 2023, and while his lack of production was not entirely his own doing, perhaps the Steelers take another swing with Thomas coming in as the No. 3 alongside Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. Moving Johnson and Pickens into the slot more to help create more separation on out-breakers like corner routes, an area Pickens excelled in 2023, adds more versatility to the whole unit,” wrote Brad Spielberger of PFF.

Thomas’ career has been derailed by injuries in recent seasons. He was in the argument as the best wide receiver in the NFL in 2020 before the injuries began piling up. Thomas has played in only 20 games in the last four seasons, which includes missing the entire 2021 campaign.

NFL News & Rumors: Michael Thomas, 2024 NFL Free Agency, Pittsburgh Steelers Updates

There would certainly be a ton of risk for the Steelers bringing him in, as he cannot be counted on to play an entire season. Despite playing in only 10 games in 2023, he outproduced Robinson, who played in all 17 games.

If he can stay healthy, which is a huge if, Thomas can still be a productive receiver. Being relied upon to play the No. 3 role, which would be the case in Pittsburgh, and limiting his snaps is something that could help keep him fresh and on the field more.

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