For a team facing so much adversity in the past season and heading into the next with a litany of questions to address, it’s natural to consider the issues and how they can either go right or wrong, as well as how they will affect the broader dynamics and future success of the team, both heading into this season and into the future.
Though not statistically true, it is technically true that every team enters the offseason with the potential to finish the year as the league champion or as the first team on the clock in the next draft.
Some teams have a wider realistic range than others, and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those teams. Think of them as Schrödinger’s franchise; in February, they are both future champions and future owners of the top draft pick.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Should the Steelers draft a tall receiver, and what impact could he have on the offense?
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been lobbying for a tall receiver more or less since Plaxico Burress left in free agency after the quarterback’s rookie season. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this offseason, the organization has every intention to get Roethlisberger that tall receiver in the early rounds of the upcoming draft, and told him so.
When you have a franchise quarterback, it’s generally a good idea to surround him with the weapons necessary to succeed. It’s also a good practice to accommodate him within reason when at all possible, such as getting him a tall receiver.
But would it be a mistake to deliberately go into the draft looking for a specific type of player at a specific position?
In the process, the Steelers run the risk of getting tunnel vision and not taking the best player available when it’s their turn to pick, reaching in order to make good on their word, which could be a detriment to the team in the long run.
Roethlisberger may want a tall receiver, but does giving your quarterback the body type he wants to throw to guarantee championships? Of course not. Did Demaryius Thomas win the Super Bowl for Peyton Manning? How many playoff games have Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green combined to win? Zero. Not even Larry Fitzgerald’s legendary playoff run could hold up in the end.
A tall wide receiver provides the quarterback with very specific advantages in very specific game situations. If a defense really wants to plan around and take away that option, it’s more than possible. We’ve seen shutdown corners take out all types of players for entire games. Ike Taylor has done this himself.
Quite simply, being taller doesn’t make you a better wide receiver because it doesn’t make you a better football player. If anything, it has the potential to create stagnation for players who have been able to excel through the college ranks simply by taking advantage of their superior physical attributes. This is partly why Randy Moss never earned a Super Bowl ring.
It takes more than that in the NFL, and isolating height as a determining factor in this upcoming draft when looking for the next wide receiver to add to the roster would be a crucial mistake for the Steelers, especially when taking into consideration the depth available at the position throughout the rest of the draft.