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Analyzing Steelers 2024 Third-Round Pick Roman Wilson - Built Tough





The word "sacrifice" is known to many, but few know its true meaning. In Roman Wilson's case, his journey to the NFL was founded on this nine-letter word.


Hailing from the island of Maui, his parents sacrificed in order for their son to go to the best school possible, that being Saint Louis High School in Honolulu on the island of O’ahu. Each day, Roman had to wake up at 4 a.m. to take a flight in order to get to school on time. To go to this private school, his father took a job at the airport; meanwhile, his mother worked three different jobs but drove Roman to the airport each morning. This routine lasted a month.


Roman would eventually reside with various households in order to be nearer the school. His parents eventually moved into a tiny apartment with minimal furniture, but it still allowed him to attend the school. Roman's early life experiences taught him the value of adversity and tenacity, which helped him develop into the player he would eventually become at the University of Michigan.


Following his freshman year, which took place during the 2020 COVID year, Wilson played in 13 games in his sophomore year with five starts. He would finish that season with 420 receiving yards, 25 receptions, and three touchdowns. In his junior year, Wilson would play 12 games with starts. Though his receptions and receiving yards decreased, he doubled his touchdown total to six (four receiving and two rushing). His breakout senior year would see the Wolverines win the National Championship against the Washington Huskies. Wilson himself would set career highs in receptions (48), receiving yards (789), and touchdowns (12). For his performance that season, Wilson would earn second-team All-Big Ten honors.


With a Wilson, what you see is what you get: a crafty, aggressive, and cerebral receiver who is an excellent route runner. Despite his size, Wilson is unafraid to get physical with opposing defenders, more specifically, his willingness to block, whether it's a run or pass sequence. From what we saw, Wilson has the potential to be a highly productive receiver in his rookie season. 


 

Reliable Hands


If there is one word to describe Wilson as a pass catcher, it would be "reliable". Wilson has some of the best hand-eye coordination among receiver prospects in this year's class. What is noticeable about Wilson is his ability to extend out and catch the ball with his hands instead of relying on his body. Considering that he does have the greatest length, it is impressive to watch him attack the ball while it's in the area.


In this year's Senior Bowl, Wilson went viral for this catch he made against the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round pick, Quinyon Mitchell. In this one-on-one drill, Wilson beats Mitchell right from the release of the line with a small hesitation step before stemming outside. With full separation, Wilson completes his route on the outside, but the ball was thrown in the wrong area. Watch how Wilson quickly adjusts to the other side and makes this spectacular one-handed grab. It is these types of catches that generally cannot be taught.


 

Eating Up Space


Wilson's trademark as a route runner is how masterful he is at eating up space while attacking an opposing defensive back's leverage. Though Wilson is not fully refined as a route runner, what is noticeable on tape is his ability to attack opposing defenders in such a way that they are forced to adjust uncomfortably. In these instances, Wilson is excellent at getting the separation he needs to make easy receptions.

In this example against Maryland in 2022, Wilson is positioned as the slot receiver in trips formation that is placed on the right. When the ball is snapped, Wilson attacks the Maryland defensive back's inside shoulder, recognizing he has outside leverage. Watch how Wilson covers such a healthy amount of space that it forces the Maryland defender to open up his hips. Once he reaches the top of his route, he increases his speed as he breaks inside, giving him more than enough room to make the reception. This is a textbook example of how well Wilson is able to use his speed and explosiveness to eat up space in a short amount of time. 

 

Willing To Get Physical


Receivers aren't usually very excited about blocking, but Wilson is a completely different animal. His readiness to get rough with opposition defenders is one of his playing traits. Wilson is renowned for playing with a purpose and an edge. "Someone that is hungry and looking to make the most out of every opportunity, someone that has been doubted and wants to prove everybody wrong," was his response when asked why he plays the way he does.


Wilson is seen as the slot receiver on the far left in this zone run concept. Despite the brief gain from this sequence, take note of Wilson's positioning to block the Rutgers defensive back and edge rusher. Though it might not seem like much, the block allowed the Michigan running back some space to move, which also prevented a tackle for loss. This is only one of many examples of his readiness to act as a blocker for the run offense.



 

Wilson is the type of player who could potentially become Russell's favorite target from day 1. His ability to produce in the slot or on the outside makes him one of the more versatile receivers the Steelers have had in a while. What fans should expect to see is a player on a mission to succeed not only for himself but for the benefit of his team. Considering his humble beginnings up to this point in his career, expect nothing more than 100% from him on each snap he plays. 

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