Ready to play ‘Minkah ball’

Ready to make his mark: The Steelers receiver room has had a new look this season and one player who feels like he can make an impact in the fold is veteran Van Jefferson.

Jefferson, who is entering his fifth season in the NFL, brings experience to the receiver room having played in 61 games, starting 35. He has 113 receptions for 1,600 yards, an average of 14.2 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He hopes his experience will translate to his new team.

“I’m just embracing the opportunity, coming in and learning from all the guys and making the most of my opportunity, whatever it may be,” Jefferson said. “That’s kind of my mentality.”

Jefferson hopes to move into the second spot as a receiver with the departure of Diontae Johnson via a trade, but at the same time is willing to do whatever is asked and isn’t afraid to work hard to earn no matter what his role is.

“That’s always the main goal, to come in and have that as a mentality,” Jefferson said at the start. But at the end of the day, I’m just trying to come in and be the best player I can be, earn the trust of the quarterbacks and the coaches and make the most of the opportunities.”

Jefferson has high expectations for himself for the 2024 season, and when asked if he can be a 1,000-yard receiver in offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s plan, he didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“Oh yes,” Jefferson said in a matter-of-fact but not cocky manner. “You always have a high opinion of yourself, always think you can do those things. So I definitely can. You have to work hard now to get that result. I’ll just take it one day to be where my feet are .I’m enjoying the moment now and the results will come.”

One advantage Jefferson has is his experience with Smith. He was traded to the Atlanta Falcons during the 2023 season and gained some experience in Smith’s offense. He’s still learning, but the exposure is a big advantage.

“He’s a great guy and a great coach,” Jefferson said. “I was traded in the middle of the season, so I wasn’t that perfect with the offense. Now I’ve had a full offseason learning his offense, so it was helpful.”

Jefferson said Smith has brought the same approach he had in Atlanta to Pittsburgh, one where he gets the best out of each player.

“He still has that personality,” Jefferson said. “Make sure you get started. He wants everything to be perfect. He wants guys who work hard.”

Jefferson was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the 57th overall selection. He spent his first three seasons, and part of his fourth, with the Rams before being traded to the Falcons early in the 2023 season.

He played in five games for the Rams in 2023, starting four, and had eight receptions for 108 yards, a 13.5-yard average. With the Falcons, he played in 12 games, starting five, and finished with 12 receptions for 101 yards, an 8.4-yard average.

Now he wants more and is ready to work for that No. 2 spot.

“Obviously, I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Jefferson said. “Like I said, I have to work hard to get that opportunity. Nothing is given, nothing is handed to me. I have to work for that place and I feel comfortable with that.”