The Steelers' wide receivers are an interesting bunch and there will be some critical that will take place during this offseason. Steelers 101 has documented the receiver situation many times with Antonio Brown and free agent signee Lance Moore assuming the veteran leadership roles as Jerricho Cotchery (Carolina Panthers) and Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos) have departed.Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye, Justin Brown, rookie Martavis Bryant and veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey will likely be battling for playing time and roster spots. While injuries will likely play a role in the final breakdown, the Steelers could keep as many as six wide receivers into the season.
Antonio Brown will continue in his role as the team's number one receiver. Brown is one of the hardest workers on the team and should build upon his breakout 2013 campaign in the no-huddle attack that the team intends on utilizing in 2014.
The 30-year-old wide receiver signed a two-year contact with the Steelers and should come in and fill a role similar to Cotchery, if not start opposite Brown. The 5-9, 190-pound receiver is coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign (37-457-2), but has shown a knack of finding openings in the Red Zone with 38 career touchdowns. In all, he has pulled in 346 receptions for 4,281 yards and those 38 scores.
The Steelers drafted Wheaton to help fill the deep threat void left on the roster when Wallace departed as an unrestricted free agent to the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Unfortunately, after missing all of his offseason workouts because of a NCAA rule and suffering through two in-season finger injuries, he had a disappointing rookie campaign.
Justin Brown should make the roster as well, if for no other reason than the future roster situation. Brown, a former Penn State player, who transferred in the wake of the turmoil in Happy Valley, is an intriguing prospect. A big receiver (6-3, 215 pounds), he settled in nicely with the Sooners pass-first attack and set career numbers with 73 receptions for 879 yards and five touchdowns. He spent all of 2013 on the practice squad and has been solid through OTAs.
The Steelers drafted Bryant in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he has the potential to be a tremendous addition to the Steelers offense giving the team the size they covet outside, along with the speed (4.39 40-yard dash) to take the top off the defense. A long strider, he has a deceptive mixture of deep speed and quickness off the line. Not overly experienced, with only one-year of starting experience at Clemson, playing behind first-round wide outs Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans – 2013) and is still refining his route running abilities. At this point, he is more of a deep threat than well-rounded receiver. Solid athleticism with somewhat inconsistent hands, he suffers from too many focus drops and must improve that part of his game. He could also stand to get in the weight room and add some physicality to his 6-4, 212-pound frame
At 6-2, 219 pounds, Heyward-Bey could be a wildcard, as he has the ability to take the top off the defense. Unfortunately, he has not been able to put that elite trait to consistent use in the NFL, as he has struggled to hold onto the ball throughout his career. For his career, Heyward-Bey has recorded 169 receptions for 2,380 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Raiders and Indianapolis Colts. He is coming of a disappoint 2013 season with the Colts, where he lost his starting role toward the end of the campaign and recorded only 29 receptions for 309 yards and a single touchdown.
In the end, the Steelers should keep five wide receivers in 2014.
Over the next few weeks, Steelers101 will break down every position, highlight training camp battles and eventually have the complete 53-man roster as we see it today.
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