Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will start this year opposite Antonio Brown now that Mike Wallace has left for the greener pastures of Miami and hopefully the Pittsburgh Steelers won\’t have to use either of the two very much as returners in an effort to save some wear and tear on them.
The Steelers signed running back LaRod Stephens-Howling during the free-agent signing period, and he will more than likely be the one returning kickoffs should he ultimately make the final 53 man roster out of training camp.
When it comes to candidates to return punts, however, the Steelers don\’t really seem to have many players on the roster with much experience in that area. Rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne returned a total of eight punts for 46 yards during his college career while rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton returned only three punts during his four years at Oregon State.
Rookie wide receiver Justin Brown, on the other hand, returned 71 punts for 637 yards while in college, so he could be the primary candidate if he can make the final cut.
Outside of Reggie Dunn mastering the art and making the team as a return specialist, the only other real candidate who could possibly relieve Antonio Brown of the job is wide receiver David Gilreath, as he returned both kickoffs and punts at Wisconsin and was pretty decent at doing both. In order for Gilreath to make the final 53 man roster; however, it would likely mean that veteran wide receiver Plaxico Burress won\’t.
Should the responsibility ultimately fall back on the shoulders of Antonio Brown, we\’ll all just have to cross our fingers and hope that he stays away from the big hit. Sure, he can get injured just as easy catching balls in the Steelers offense, but limiting the amount of total hits that he takes during a game is always advisable if other options exist.