Four Candidates to Fill Steelers WR Void

The Pittsburgh Steelers could look to these four players to fill their wide receiver void.
Jan 7, 2024; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer (5) runs
Jan 7, 2024; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer (5) runs / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH -- It's Day 5 of Significant Playmaker Watch for the Pittsburgh Steelers but things don't seem to be moving in the right direction for them. The trade market doesn't appear to be nearly as open as it once was and the free agent market is getting progressvely thinner with Tyler Boyd drifting further out of the picture and D.J. Chark inking a new contract

So a trade for a star or a splashy free agent signing isn't in the cards for the Steelers this offseason. Where do they go from here? After being backed into a corner, the options are limited but not non-existent. Pittsburgh's front office may have to take a big swing via trade or settle for a less exciting option on the free agent market, but there are four players that could fit with their 2024 goals, Arthur Smith's new scheme and the franchise's salary cap situation.

Alec Pierce, Indianapolis Colts - Trade Candidate

Pierce is an aspirational target. After just two seasons, he's already logged 1,107 yards on 73 receptions - good for 15.3 yards per catch. If a central tenant of Arthur Smith's offense is going to be power running and downfield, play-action passing, it's hard to think of a better fit than Pierce. He's a solid runn blocker and creates explosive plays downfield as a pure outside receiver, something the Steelers need desperately.

The former second round pick has lived up to his draft slot so far but he's currently in a WR3 role behind Michael Pittman and fellow up-and-comer Josh Downs. Omar Khan might be able to wiggle him away from Indianapolis before he's set to earn a bigger payday in a couple of years, but it'd take a generous draft pick package. Still, that might be worth it given the Steelers' current dire situation at wideout.

Josh Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers - Trade Candidate

It wouldn't be wise for the Chargers to move on from any more of Justin Herbert's weapons than they already have but for a team that has left little doubt they are interested in clearing cap space so new head coach Jim Harbaugh can build a roster in his image, moving on from Palmer while he is in a contract year could make sense.

Palmer represents just a $3.37 million cap hit in 2023 but there are two possible ways his season can go - either he thrives in a larger role and prices himself out of Los Angeles or he's overshadowed by one (or more) of the three wide receivers the Chargers drafted this year. He'd be only a rental for the Steelers and his run blocking isn't tremendous, but Palmer has reliable hands and lots of experience.

Russell Gage - Free Agent

The free agent market is remarkably thin Gage, who has been productive over the course of his career but where he'd fit in with the Steelers is an open question. Gage's best, most productive years came in 2020 and 2021 with the Falcons, when he was surrounded by Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones on the outside and could comfortably take most of his snaps in the slot.

Gage has played on the outside quite a bit (44.4% of the total snaps in his career, per Pro Football Focus) but I don't think that's the ideal way for him to be used. Roman Wilson would have to prove himself as a durable option not in the slot but if he can, Gage's ability to create yards after the catch would be a welcome addition to Russell Wilson's array of weapons, especially at what will be an affordable price tag following a year on the injured reserve for a torn patellar tendon.

Laviska Shenault, Seattle Seahawks - Trade Candidate

Shenault signed with the Seahwaks just last month after seeing his profile shrink progressively over two years with the Carolina Panthers. He played in just eight games last season and didn't make a start but he's got starting experience and he's been a productive No. 2 options during his time with the Jaguars, who drafted him in the second round in 2020.

The Steelers could provide Shenault a stable position, something he hasn't enjoyed over the course of his four-year career and he'd provide outstanding run blocking and clean play. He won't thrill anyone in Pittsburgh when he signs but Shenault doesn't make many mistakes and could blend cleanly into an offense that won't need to put too much on his plate.

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Stephen Thompson


Stephen Thompson graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications and political science from Pitt in April 2022 after spending four years as a sports writer and editor at The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh's independent, student-run newspaper. He primarily worked the Pitt men's basketball beat, and filled in on coverage of football, volleyball, softball, gymnastics and lacrosse, in addition to other sports as needed. His work at The Pitt News has won awards from the Pennsylvania News Media Association and Associated College Press. During the spring and summer of 2021, Stephen interned for Pittsburgh Sports Now, covering baseball in western Pennsylvania. Hailing from Washington D.C., family ties have cultivated a love of Boston's professional teams and Pitt athletics, and a fascination with sports in general.