Steelers Sign Former Second-Round WR

Pundits have named the Pittsburgh Steelers a potential landing spot for quarterback Ryan Tannehill because of his previous relationship with new Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. The Steelers could still target Tannehill in free agency, but on March 15, they added a different veteran with experience playing under Smith — wide receiver Van Jefferson.

Falcons trade for Rams WR Van Jefferson - The Falcoholic

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac reported that the Steelers signed Jefferson to a 1-year deal.

“Steelers are signing WR Van Jefferson, a former No. 2 draft choice of the Rams in 2020, to a one-year deal, per sources,” Dulac wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Move is for depth purposes.”

The Los Angeles Rams selected Jefferson at No. 57 overall during the second round in the 2020 NFL draft. In his first three seasons with the Rams, he posted 93 catches for 1,391 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 44 games.

Jefferson spent 12 games in Smith’s offense with the Atlanta Falcons during the 2023 season.

Steelers Sign WR Van Jefferson

Jefferson’s career appeared to be on the rise after he posted a decent rookie season and stellar second campaign with the Rams. In his second season, Jefferson registered 50 catches for 802 yards and 6 touchdowns while averaging 16 yards per reception.

But about midway through that season, Los Angeles signed Odell Beckham Jr. Once Beckham became an intricate part of the Rams offense, Jefferson saw a dip in his targets and thus production.

Jefferson then began the 2022 season on injured reserve. Upon his return to the lineup, he made a minimal impact. That continued into last season, and then on October 10, the Rams traded Jefferson to the Falcons.

In 17 games with the Rams and Falcons last season, he posted 20 catches and 209 yards.

During each of his final two full seasons in Los Angeles, Jefferson averaged more than 15 yards per catch. The Steelers are likely hoping to get this version of Jefferson next season.

But that wasn’t the player Smith had in Atlanta. With the Falcons, Jefferson recorded 12 catches for 101 yards, averaging 8.4 yards per reception.

Steelers Could Still Sign WR Tyler Boyd

Taking a flier on a former high draft pick is rarely a bad thing. But signing Jefferson should not impact what else the Steelers might do this offseason at wide receiver.

That includes in the draft and free agency.

The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly confirmed that thought shortly after the Steelers acquired Jefferson. Kaboly tweeted on March 15 that the Jefferson signing had “no impact on Tyler Boyd potentially coming” home to play in Pittsburgh.

With only 20.6 yards per game in his last 28 contests, Jefferson shouldn’t even be viewed as a fall back option. Boyd has posted seven 600-yard receiving seasons in his career whereas Jefferson has recorded one season with more than 400 yards.

After trading Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers, the Steelers need wide receiver depth. That’s what Jefferson will provide in Pittsburgh.

But after giving up Johnson, George Pickens was the only wideout on the team’s 2024 roster who had more than 250 receiving yards last season. That remains true even with Jefferson on the roster.

Former third-round pick Calvin Austin is the only other receiver returning for the Steelers who played significant snaps in 2023. He had 17 catches for 180 yards.

Jefferson will join a Steelers roster that also has former second-round bust Denzel Mims. The other receivers Pittsburgh has currently under contract for 2024 include Marquez Callaway, Dez Fitzpatrick, Keilahn Harris and Duece Watts.

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