The rise of Steven Sims from a practice squad afterthought during the 2021 season into a key offensive piece in the slot down the stretch in 2022 for the Pittsburgh Steelers was certainly something to see.
Now, ahead of his foray into free agency, the veteran receiver, who can play in the slot and handle kick and punt return duties, believes he belongs in the Steelers’ offense moving forward under offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
“I definitely feel I belong in this offense,” Sims said to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski at the end of the season. “I know I can return the ball. But I also know I can play receiver in this league, so I am just waiting on my opportunity receiver-wise. I got more reps as the season went on and just made a couple plays here and there.”
Sims didn’t really start to see a significant role offensively until the Steelers traded away third-year receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick, which ended up being the first pick of the second round at No. 32 overall after the Miami Dolphins had to forfeit their first round pick for tampering last offseason.
Once clear of Claypool on the depth chart, Sims started to show what he could do as a receiver.
Sims finished with 14 receptions for 104 yards on 23 targets, adding 13 carries for 70 yards in 284 offensive snaps (34%).
While he had some issues making plays in contested-catch situations, Sims came up clutch late in the season, recording a 22-yard run on the road against Carolina in a Week 15 win, following that up with three-catch, 34-yard performance in Week 17 on the road against Baltimore, hauling in a 28-yard strike from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett up the seam between Ravens defenders on the game-winning drive, and then added a 16-yard run in the season finale win against the Cleveland Browns, helping the Steelers finish 9-8 on the season.
Though the numbers aren’t eye-popping overall, Sims seized upon his opportunity in the slot following the Claypool trade, producing very similar numbers that Claypool did before and after the trade. While he leaves some to be desired as a route runner and a guy after the catch overall, Sims settled nicely into the possession-style slot receiver the Steelers wanted in Canada’s system, while fully embracing his impact as a runner on jet sweeps.
He had his struggles down the stretch in the return game, too, but overall Sims had a very solid year in Pittsburgh after being elevated into the lineup in Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills as a returner and receiver following Gunner Olszewski’s failures in the return game.
A free agent at 25 years old, Sims seems to be a very solid fit in Pittsburgh, at least under Canada and special teams coordinator Danny Smith. He won’t break the bank, had a few highlight-reel plays last season and is very comfortable and reliable for the coaching staff overall. That should result in him remaining in Pittsburgh as a free agent, though there’s no guarantee of a role offensively with the return of Calvin Austin III from injury and the Steelers likely looking to add a veteran receiver in free agency along with potentially drafting one in the 2023 NFL Draft.
He believes he belongs in the Steelers’ offense overall though, based on his role from last season, so it’s hard to envision him choosing to walk away from that fit and that role. Stranger things have happened though, but sounds like Sims wants to remain in the Steel City after finding a stable home with the franchise.