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Predicting 2023 receiving stats for Steelers players

Preseason buzz is at its peak, and the excitement surrounding the Steelers offense is gaining traction. With about a month to go until the season kicks off, it is a good time to begin making predictions about the offense.

This week, we will be taking a look at both the rushing and receiving aspects of the offense, breaking it down player-by-player to analyze what reasonable expectations for each player should be. Today, we are going to take a closer look at the receiving game.

Diontae Johnson and Allen Robinson provide veteran leadership to a deep receiver room, but who will be the WR1 in this offense? Can George Pickens become a true number one? We will take a closer look at what reasonable expectations truly are for the Steelers’ receiving entities.

Note: This exercise will only include those predicted to record at least 100 receiving yards.


George Pickens

Predictions
Targets: 131
Receptions: 84
Yards: 1,159
Yards per reception: 13.8
TD: 7

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we see a George Pickens breakout season in 2023! All reports from training camp, including those from our own K.T. Smith, indicate that Pickens has developed his route tree and improved his confidence overall. His chemistry with Kenny Pickett was evident even last year, and it sounds as if it is only improving. Diontae Johnson will always be a factor when healthy, but everything is aligning perfectly for Pickens to become Kenny’s favorite target.


Diontae Johnson

Predictions
Targets: 112
Receptions: 65
Yards: 703
Yards per reception: 10.8
TD: 3

Could Diontae Johnson have his best season to date? I suppose it is possible, but if George Pickens truly has a breakout season, there are only so many targets to go around for a team who wants to establish the run to set up the pass. I still see him easily surpassing 100 targets, but the last two seasons have been an insane amount for a player who is not a true number one. It may not look like much on paper, but these are solid numbers for someone who may be playing second fiddle to George Pickens by midseason.


Pat Freiermuth

Predictions
Targets: 92
Receptions: 61
Yards: 779
Yards per reception: 12.7
TD: 6

Darnell Washington’s arrival has led some to believing there will be a downtick in targets for Pat Freiermuth. It is certainly possible Freiermuth loses targets, but I am not sure they would be entirely due to Darnell Washington. Tight ends often take a while to adapt to the NFL game and make a difference in the receiving game. Plus, I expect Freiermuth to be more prevalent in the red zone this season, having recorded only two touchdowns in 2022. As long as he can avoid more concussions, I expect a bright outlook for the standout tight end.


Najee Harris

Predictions
Targets: 53
Receptions: 40
Yards: 245
Yards per reception: 6.1
TD: 2

While not gaudy numbers, these are solid statistics for a running back of Harris’ profile. With Jaylen Warren not being an elite pass catcher, Harris is not in danger of losing a bunch of targets to any other running backs. However, a healthy Calvin Austin and Allen Robinson could allow for more options for Kenny Pickett in the underneath passing game.


Allen Robinson

Predictions
Targets: 71
Receptions: 44
Yards: 449
Yards per reception: 10.2
TD: 4

Robinson is definitely not the receiver he once was, but he has also performed on a high level with putrid quarterback play. Kenny Pickett will be the best quarterback he has ever played with, outside of an extremely short stint with Matthew Stafford. Being third or fourth in the pecking order, projections must remain modest for Robinson. Nonetheless, his influence in the locker room and veteran presence on the field makes this acquisition worth the time, money and effort, regardless of on-field stats.


Calvin Austin III

Predictions
Targets: 34
Receptions: 21
Yards: 302
Yards per reception: 14.4
TD: 1

After being injured as a rookie, expectations need to be tempered for Calvin Austin in 2023. As the season goes on, I could see him getting more usage in the role of a receiver, but his most likely avenue to playing time early in the season will be on special teams and on jet sweeps. I think we do see Austin connect with Pickett for at least one big play down the field this season, but coming back from injury, expectations need to remain in check.


Darnell Washington

Predictions
Targets: 32
Receptions: 22
Yards: 225
Yards per reception: 10.2
TD: 4

Without copying and pasting what I said under Pat Freiermuth, let me remind you that tight ends take a while to get acclimated to the NFL. The learning curve is slower, which means that monster numbers in year one are not the norm. Washington’s ability as a blocker should be prevalent from Game 1, but I do not expect a crazy amount of receiving yards. I do think he finds the end zone several times, which could play a key role down the home stretch of a schedule.


Jaylen Warren

Predictions
Targets: 29
Receptions: 20
Yards: 163
Yards per reception: 8.1
TD: 1

Efficiency with his targets will be the only true way for Warren to receive additional targets, as he is not a natural hands catcher. His development in this area was noticeable as a rookie, but he still has a long way to go.


Connor Heyward

Predictions
Targets: 23
Receptions: 14
Yards: 139
Yards per reception: 9.9
TD: 1

I am intrigued about Heyward’s potential role in this offense. No matter what may happen with Kendrick Green at fullback, Heyward will get reps in this offense. As a gadget guy, I do not expect him to be a major red zone weapon, but if he can move the chains in key games, he could be a key to Pittsburgh’s success this season.


Which receivers do you see making the biggest impact in 2023? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

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