By Cian Fahey
With the news that Jerricho Cotchery is in St Louis visiting the Rams, Mike Tomlin\’s noteworthy comment on Emmanuel Sanders\’ health and Mike Wallace\’s continued lack of a long-term contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers could value the wide receiver position in this draft more than many anticipate.
The most likely receiver to be available for the Steelers to draft is Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech, but he is also the best fit.
Hill isn\’t rated the top prospect at the position as Kendall Wright of Baylor, Michael Floyd of Notre Dame and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State University are all certainly above him in most observers\’ eyes. However, he does potentially have the highest potential of the group as part of a Todd Haley offense.
In Arizona, Haley ran the offense which saw Larry Fitzgerald develop into arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. Fitzgerald and Hill have some similar qualities as both are big receivers who love to attack the ball down the field.
Hill is the latest in the line of Georgia Tech receivers who are physical freaks but are not polished route runners. The original, Calvin Johnson, dominated the league last year on his way to 96 receptions for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Hill\’s predecessor, DeMaryius Thomas, is a name haunting the Steelers after he almost single handedly knocked the franchise out of the playoffs last year.
As the latest in that line of receivers, Hill shares similar measurables. While he is not Johnson, 6-5 and over 230 pounds, he is one inch taller than Thomas at 6-4. He is lighter than both players as he only weighs 215 pounds but he has plenty of room to add weight.
Pivotally, Hill will only turn 21 this month. For two reasons that is important for the Steelers. Firstly, as I just mentioned, he can add weight to bulk up and share a similar frame to Johnson and Fitzgerald. However what is most crucial, is that Hill would have plenty of time to develop.
Realistically, the Steelers will only draft Hill if they expect Wallace to move on after this season, something that remains a possibility. In that scenario, Hill would enter this season as the fourth or fifth option while concentrating mostly on developing his route tree and adjusting to the professional game.
Whether the Steelers re-sign Cotchery or bring in another receiver as depth is irrelevant because Hill will be drafted as a future starter if that is indeed the case.
Drafting Hill would say a lot about the prospects of Sanders overcoming his health issues. With a fully healthy Sanders, the team won\’t have any receiver needs moving forward. Sanders is a potential starter along with Antonio Brown, finding complements to them wouldn\’t be any major issue.
Hill wouldn\’t really be the right choice for the short-term, but bringing him in as a long-term development player, which the Steelers are not adverse to doing, will give those watching on outside the organization a significant hint in regards to the futures of Wallace, Sanders and Cotchery.
It may be an unlikely scenario right now, but it is possible that the Steelers could only have one fully healthy and proven receiver on the roster to rely on next year. Calling Brown proven is a bit of a stretch also considering he has only been in the league for two years.
The Steelers need to explore every avenue in this draft because of the position they sit in. Wide receiver certainly could be the route they end up taking.
You can follow Cian on Twitter at @cianaf