The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost wide receiver Mike Wallace to free agency, and until April 19th gets here, there is still a slight chance that they could lose wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders as well. When you factor in the chance that tight end Heath Miller could very well miss a few games or more at the start of the 2013 season because of his knee injury, that\’s quite a few red-zone touchdown receptions that could be either gone, or sidelined by Week 1.
Wallace, Sanders and Miller combined to catch 11 of the 19 red-zone touchdown passes last season, and 22 out of the 45 scored the last three seasons. 6 of those 45 were caught by Hines Ward, who was let go last offseason, and of the remaining 17 red-zone touchdown catches over the last three seasons, only wide receiver Antonio Brown has more than 2.
Here is one additional note to those stats. Of those 45 red-zone receiving touchdowns that the Steelers have totaled the last three seasons, wide receivers have caught just 25 of them.
The Steelers will most likely be looking to select a wide receiver in the top half of the upcoming draft, and one of the prerequisites should be red-zone production in college.
While they have not yet had him in for a pre draft visit, West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey certainly did show his ability to score touchdowns during his college career. Of his eye-popping 41 touchdowns scored; 20 of them came inside the red zone, and 17 came from inside the opponents 10 yard-line. His college teammate Tavon Austin, who is expected to be drafted in the first round later this month, had 14 red-zone touchdown receptions in his four years playing for the Mountaineers.
Sure, Bailey is a few inches short of being an ideal 6 feet tall, but his ability to get open in the red zone and score is incredible. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with his physicality, reliable hands and body control.
While many will view Bailey as just a possession receiver, he has shown that he can be explosive as well. 70 of 210 career college receptions went for 15 or more yards and 38 of those 70 went for 25 yards or more. He is not blazing fast by no means, but he does play quicker than timed.
I am by no means trying to discredit anything that Austin did during his four years at West Virginia, but Bailey not only had more touchdowns than his teammate in three years, but a better yards per catch average as well.
So will Bailey be around in the third round when the Steelers pick 79th overall? It\’s hard to really say, as most of the draftniks have him coming off the board somewhere between round two or three. Is he worth a second round selection at 48th overall? That might be pushing it, but it is fathomable.
On our Thursday podcast, long-time scout Dave-Te\’ Thomas said Bailey could be the second coming of John Stallworth. While I am not willing to make that comparison, he could be the next coming of Louis Lipps.
The Steelers certainly need to start getting better red zone scoring production from their wide receivers and Bailey could help in that area, even as a rookie.