Wide receiver Miles Boykin did not reach a new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers until April 24, just days before the 2023 NFL Draft was to start. He had been an unsigned free agent for over a month before opting to return on a minimum-salary one-year contract, believing it was his best fit to continue to grow. And he believes he still has room to grow, both as a player and within the organization.
“For me, it’s just about maximizing my role and my value every day I step out there,”, the fifth-year veteran told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Whether that’s on (special teams) or whether that’s on the offense, I feel like I am a complete player, and I feel like I am a football player first and foremost. I feel like I can do a lot of things”.
Boykin was not asked to do many things last year, his primary role being as a core special teams player. While his sort of ‘signature’ role was in his work as a gunner on the punt coverage unit, he accumulated over 200 special teams snaps on a variety of units.
A former third-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens coming out of Notre Dame, his career never took shape as it was supposed to. Surely it didn’t help to have been drafted in a very run-first offense in Baltimore—I believe they set an NFL rushing record in his rookie year of 2019, but his role never progressed.
Things came to a head during an injury-plagued 2021 season, losing ground on the proverbial moving train, and by the time he was healthy enough to hop back on board, he found himself hanging onto the caboose. Due a salary boost through the Proven Performance Escalator Program, the Ravens opted to release him in 2022.
The Steelers claimed him off waivers, in turn, taking on that elevated salary of $2,540,000 and making the decision to carry it into the regular season. Yet he ultimately played just 132 snaps on offense, targeted just three times and making two catches for 11 yards. Much of his playing time came in the second half of the season, in a blocking capacity.
Boykin will be in a battle to retain his roster spot this offseason, likely positioned no better than fifth on the depth chart at the moment. The top three are secure in Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Allen Robinson II, with Calvin Austin III getting plenty of buzz over the past few weeks.
Beyond that, things are pretty open, with Gunner Olszewski, Anthony Miller, Hakeem Butler, Cody White, and Dan Chisena representing some of the other competitors battling for the fifth, and possibly sixth, roster spot in the wide receiver room.
Of course, they are likely to keep two or more receivers on the practice squad as well, depending on how many they keep on the 53-man roster, so getting cut doesn’t necessarily mean parting company. But Boykin is looking to be a much bigger contributor this time around.