Steelers WR Quez Watkins Eyeing Starting Role?

The Steelers have made a number of changes at the receiver position this offseason, and the departures of Diontae Johnson (traded) and Allen Robinson (released) has left plenty of playing time available. Quez Watkins is among the newcomers aiming to secure a first-team role this summer.

The 25-year-old spent his first four seasons with the Eagles, serving as a deep threat. Watkins’ best season came in 2021, when he posted 647 yards and one touchdown on 43 catches. The development of DeVonta Smith and the arrival of A.J. Brown cut heavily into his playing time, and his production dropped over the past two years. Pittsburgh could provide Watkins with a new opportunity, though.

“For me, when I saw they traded Diontae, it was a great opportunity to potentially be a No. 2 or whatever they want me to do,” the former sixth-rounder said (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “It’s a good opportunity to compete for that spot.”

Johnson consistently served as a focal point in the Steelers’ passing, drawing no fewer than 87 targets in each of his five seasons with the team. Per his request, he was traded away, though, paving the way for George Pickens to operate as Pittsburgh’s clear-cut WR1 moving forward. The pecking order beyond that is in the air, with 2022 fourth-rounder Calvin Austin in place as a another returnee capable of logging first-team snaps.

Pittsburgh has added Van Jefferson and Scotty Miller this offseason; both of those veterans have worked with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith before. The team also used the draft as a means of adding a pass-catcher, selecting Roman Wilson in the third round. Watkins will be competing with each of those players for a starting position or at least a rotational role in the WR room.

Given the lack of established receivers already on the depth chart, the Steelers have been connected to another acquisition late in the offseason. Pittsburgh was one of the reported suitors for Deebo Samuel, but neither he nor fellow 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk is believed to be on the block anymore. The free agent pool includes the likes of Michael Thomas, Mecole Hardman and Hunter Renfrow, and the Steelers could look to sign one of them if they feel an addition is needed. For now, though, Watkins and the new arrivals will compete for roster spots and significant snaps.

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