LATROBE, Pennsylvania -- The thunder of padded practices earlier in the week was a faint memory by the time Wednesday's practice rolled around. The Steelers' second-to-last practice of training camp was a thinking man's practice, as Pittsburgh's players worked through situational drills while leaving their pads inside the locker room. 

Wednesday's practice was the continuation of several notable position battles. Inside linebacker Robert Spillane likely helped his cause in his position battle with Devin Bush when he recorded a pick-six off of Mitchell Trubisky during team drills. All eyes continued to be on the ongoing quarterback battle and specifically rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, whose practice Wednesday showed that, while he is showing considerable signs of progress, old habits do indeed die hard (more on that later). 

The afternoon's practice also reinforced the fact that a capable receiver will be left off the team's initial 53-man roster. Several promising wideouts are vying for the final two spots on the depth chart entering the Steelers' second preseason game, which will take place Saturday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars

Everyone can agree that, barring injury, the following players will lead the Steelers' receiving corps at the start of the regular season: 

  • Diontae Johnson: The team's No. 1 receiver who is coming off his first Pro Bowl campaign and multiyear extension. 
  • Chase Claypool: While his 2021 season did not measure up to his rookie campaign, Claypool still has tremendous upside and potential. 
  • George Pickens: The rookie second-round pick will be a heavy contributor to the offense, possibly right away. 
  • Calvin Austin III: If healthy, Austin's versatile skillset will be put to use by offensive coordinator Matt Canada. 

With the top-four spots solidified, here's a look at the receivers who have the best shot at earning one of the final spots on the roster. 

Gunner Olszewski

The front-runner to earn one of the final receiver spots on the 53-man roster. The former Patriots All-Pro returner enjoyed a solid debut with the Steelers during Pittsburgh's preseason-opening win over Seattle. He seems to have developed a rapport with each of the Steelers' quarterbacks, which was on display on Wednesday as he continued to be seen on the receiving end of passes. 

"He's adaptable," Tomlin said of Olszewski following practice. "He's versatile. He plays multiple spots. He's tough. I can't stay enough about the toughness that he displays." 

Olszewski actually came down with the most impressive catch practice. Pickett, under duress, rolled to his left before lofting the ball over a defender and into the out-stretched hands of Olszewski on the near sideline. But while Olszewski's catch was impressive, Tomlin was more focused on the quarterback who threw the pass. 

"Gotta get that ball out," Tomlin said to Pickett, who is known for holding the ball a bit too long at times. 

Cody White

A former undrafted rookie, White is entering his third year with the Steelers after having short stints with three other NFL teams at the start of his pro career. He spent his entire rookie season on Pittsburgh's practice squad before appearing in 15 games last season. White made an impressive catch Wednesday on an equally impressive throw by quarterback Mason Rudolph

Steven Sims

Sims spent his first two NFL seasons in Washington before spending the majority of the 2021 season on Pittsburgh's practice squad. Sims made a pair of splash plays in last Saturday's win over Seattle that included a 38-yard punt return and a jet sweep run that also picked up 38 yards. 

"He's working extremely hard," Tomlin said of Sims, who caught 61 passes in Washington while also returning a punt for a score. "He's working to define a role. … He's a guy that's fighting for a seat on the bus." 

Sims is not familiar with John Taylor, another receiver/punt returner who wore No. 82 while helping the 49ers win three Super Bowls. Sims was familiar with another No. 82 that helped the Steelers win their fifth Lombardi Trophy back in 2005. 

"There's a lot of greats that came before us here that put the uniform on," Sims said prior to Wednesday's practice. "(Number) 82 especially. (Antwaan) Randle El, I was watching 'Hard Knocks' yesterday, seeing him. There are a lot of greats that came before us, and we've got to live up to the name." 

Miles Boykin

The former Ravens receiver is a big-bodied possession receiver who hasn't necessarily stood out during camp. His pedigree (he's a former third-round pick of the Ravens who caught seven touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons) might give him a slight edge in the position battle. 

Tyler Vaughns

The recipient of last Saturday's game-winning score, Vaughns has showed flashes of his potential during camp. He also oftentimes comes up just short of making a big play during practice. 

While practice is still important, the remaining preseason games will ultimately determine which receivers will earn the final roster spots, and which ones will be vying for a spot on Pittsburgh's practice squad when the page turns to the regular season.