By Jeremy Hritz
The Pittsburgh Steelers are set at the first four wide receiver positions, with Mike Wallace (assuming he rejoins the team), Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery. Each player provides the passing game with a unique skill set: Wallace as the top-popper, Brown as the sure-handed YAC’er, Sanders a combination of the two, and Cotchery, a gritty Hines Ward-style player who can make the tough catch (see touchdown reception last year against Denver in the playoffs). Yet beyond the fearsome foursome, nobody has emerged.
After selecting Toney Clemons in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, many believed that he would successfully fulfill the fifth receiver spot; however, too many drops and inconsistent play are jeopardizing his chances. Clemons did not have any catches against the Eagles, and must step up this Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts to show that he can perform when called upon to do so, as at times, he has flashed an ability to make the difficult catch. His struggles can be traced back to his inability to stand out in OTAs and minicamp, as he did not garner hardly any attention from coaches.
Marquis Maze was a player that signed as an undrafted free agent from Alabama that did some nice things in OTAs and minicamp, yet has had the same inconsistency issues that have plagued Clemons. Maze too had no receptions against the Eagles, though he did do show some ability in the return game. Maze needs to show that he can be just as effective a receiver as he can be a returner, otherwise his time with the Steelers will be short lived.
The other receiver in the mix for the fifth spot is second year player from Division III Bridgewater College, Tyler Beiler, who caught for 1342 yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season. The Steelers worked him out prior to the 2011 draft, but he ended up signing as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, was cut, and then signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Beiler’s workout numbers from his pro day were impressive. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and produced a 40.5 inch vertical jump, solid indications of his explosiveness. Against the Eagles, Beiler made a nice back shoulder grab on a pass from Jerrod Johnson that resulted in a 30 yard gain. That combined with his overall performance in camp has earned positive praise from wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery. After the Eagles game, Montgomery said, “I thought Tyler Beiler did an unbelievable job of making a play when we needed it the most.”
With three games remaining on the preseason schedule, there is much time left for the receivers fighting for a job to make some noise, yet at this point, Beiler has an advantage over the group. The 6’1, 190 pound, 23-year-old Beiler is still somewhat of a mystery, yet his chances to make the team are as favorable as any other receiver. His performance will be worth tracking over the next few weeks to see if he consistently makes plays.