The Steelers offense declined for the second straight season in 2022, falling to 26th in scoring, and they're counting primarily on internal improvement to turn things around. However, they did add one big-name veteran this offseason, as they are close to acquiring Allen Robinson from the Rams Tuesday, per reports.
The terms of the deal, however, highlight how much Robinson's value has taken a hit over the past few years. Just one year after signing with the Rams on a three-year deal worth $46.5 million, the Rams sent him to the Steeler for a seventh-round pick swap, with the Rams picking up more than two-thirds of Robinson's salary for 2023. And expectations should be very low for Robinson coming off two pretty dreadful seasons.
Over the past two seasons combined, Robinson has caught just 71 of 118 passes for 749 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from his 151-102-1250-6 line in 2020. Robinson will be 30 in August, so a bounceback seems unlikely, and he's not really someone Fantasy players need to concern themselves with in drafts this offseason.
The bigger question is what, if anything, the trade means for both the Rams and Steelers offenses.
On the Steelers side, the obvious question is what this means for Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Pat Freiermuth. Robinson's skill set likely overlaps a lot more with Pickens, as a bigger receiver who relies on contested catches, but that only really matters if Robinson is any good. The Steelers gave up on a similar player in Chase Claypool last season, and it wouldn't surprise me if Robinson was being brought in to serve a similar function in the offense as the big slot receiver.
That should still leave Pickens and Johnson to fill similar roles as they did last season. Johnson probably is what he is at this point – a tremendous route-runner with a knack for getting open who doesn't do much else well. His average depth of target actually rose to a career-high 10.2 yards last season, and with it came his lowest catch rate – and also, somehow, the lowest yards per reception of his career. Maybe the addition of Robinson allows the Steelers to focus more on getting Johnson the ball in short areas, which should fit his skill set a bit better, but I'm not sure it's enough to make him much more than a No. 3 WR in PPR.
Pickens has more upside in theory, and he showed it off in fits and starts with some really impressive highlights. The problem, at least as a rookie, wa that there was much there beyond the highlights for Pickens. He was efficient on both a per-target and per-catch basis, sporting a solid 61.9% catch rate despite a high 14.5 ADOT. Unfortunately, he was a pretty middling Fantasy option because he just didn't earn many targets – despite running routes on most of the team's passing plays throughout the season, he had just three games with more than six targets. Among 66 players with at least 80 targets last season, Pickens was dead last in targets per route run, earning one on just 14.5% of his routes.
Pickens is a good contested-catch receiver, but he wasn't generating much separation as a rookie, ranking 11th in average yards of separation when targeted as a rookie. That's not inherently a bad thing – DK Metcalf actually ranked lower than Pickens – but it does raise the degree of difficulty on every target, and potentially makes it harder for Pickens to raise his target share.
It is worth noting that Pickens had played just four games in his junior season in college coming off an ACL tear, so some rustiness wasn't exactly unexpected or unreasonable. But he needs to take a step forward and start earning targets more regularly in order to justify what is sure to be some breakout hype this draft season. That would have been true regardless of whether the Steelers added Robinson.
All in all, I remain pretty pessimistic about this Steelers offense in general. Neither Pickens nor Johnson was a top-36 WR for me before the trade, and neither will be one after the trade.
In the Rams case, it's pretty hard to see there being much impact at all here. The Rams offense should be improved from last year if Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford are healthy, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them add another wide receiver or two in the draft next week. Because, right now, the depth chart behind Kupp looks pretty barren; Ben Skowronek, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell are the primary names to know, but none of them has shown much reason to think they can be difference makers. I expect this offense to once again lean very heavily on Kupp, with Tyler Higbee likely seeing enough targets to remain Fantasy relevant.
If you want to take a late-round flier on Skowronek or Jefferson, that's fine, but seeing as Skowronek had one game with more than 50 yards even after Kupp's injury while Jefferson only had two, so I'm not expecting much here.