Perceptions of how big of an issue wide receiver depth was before and after the 2022 NFL Draft differed drastically; not without good reason. The Pittsburgh Steelers used second- and fourth-round draft picks to address the position with the additions of George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, respectively.
The former had a rather promising rookie season, while the latter missed it entirely with a foot injury. Said injury led to surgery, from which he has only just recently begun to run, or perhaps more accurately to jog.
But with Chase Claypool gone via trade, the team only has Diontae Johnson and Pickens currently returning under contract as proven commodities, along with Austin and the benched return man, Gunner Olszewski. Where does Steven Sims fit in?
“I would be happy to be here for the rest of my career, definitely”, said the three-year veteran, who took on a larger role in the offense in the second half of the season after the Claypool trade, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I love it here, I love the coaches, I love Danny so much, but we’re gonna see. I can’t wait”.
Sims spent the first several weeks of the regular season as a healthy scratch, but was activated and took over the return duties after Olszewski—who was signed primarily to be a returner—put one too many footballs on the ground for the coaching staff’s liking, including the aforementioned Danny, Coach Smith, the special teams coordinator.
Sims first signed to the Steelers’ practice squad in 2021 and spent virtually the entire season there. Austin’s preseason foot injury likely was the difference between him making the 53 and not at the outset of the 2022 season, though Olszewski’s struggles might have seen him get promoted anyway.
As a return man, he put up poor numbers as on punts, in part due to unforced errors on his part, limited to just 5.5 yards per return on 19 returns. He did average a healthy 25.5 yards per kick return, however, even if he was lacking in field-flipping plays, outside of an 89-yard gain against Tampa Bay.
After the bye week—after the Claypool trade—Sims assumed the role of a primary slot receiver, even though that workload was shared among a number of players and modified with different position groups, including more two-tight end sets.
He logged 264 of his 284 offensive snaps on the season in the final nine games, during which he caught 12 passes on 20 targets for 105 yards, adding 54 rushing yards on 10 attempts. He did fumble three times in that span, as well.
At the moment, Sims is only due to be a restricted free agent, but even an original-round (in this case right of first refusal) tender would cost $2,672,700 for 2023 following a projected salary cap of nearly $250 million. If the Steelers opted not to tender him, he would become an unrestricted free agent. The minimum salary for a player of three years of credited experience for 2023 would be $1,010,000. Would any team offer him more than that?