For all the talk and attention that has surrounded Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Justin Brown, there has really been very little to show for it when you turn on the preseason footage.
Brown went without a catch—perhaps even without a target, without having been able to fully review the game yet—last night in the Steelers’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and that was with having started in the slot in place of Lance Moore.
Brown had ample opportunity to work with the first-team offense and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but he came away with nothing to show for it.
And now suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a no-brainer that there will be a roster spot ready and waiting for him come September.
Especially after veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey finally got his opportunity to showcase his talents last night, who missed much of training camp and the first preseason game due to a concussion.
Playing with backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, Heyward-Bey caught three passes for 54 yards, second only to Antonio Brown’s 59 yards to lead all receivers in the game. That included a 33-yard touchdown on a go route to give the Steelers a faint spark of life late in the game.
Rookie Martavis Bryant also caught a touchdown pass from Gradkowski in the final minutes of the game and added a 25-yard reception earlier, which included some run after the catch that showcased his speed.
Bryant, as an unpolished mid-round draft pick, is pretty much a lock to make the roster behind the top three wide receivers, but everything after that is still up in the air. Neither Justin Brown nor Heyward-Bey are guaranteed a roster spot.
It’s possible that neither, or both, could be kept, dependent upon them showing that they’re worth being kept in the final preseason game. Considering Dri Archer is also in the equation, however, carrying six receivers is not as valuable, and is something they don’t often do to begin with.
Brown still has practice squad eligibility. He should see a lot of playing time in the preseason finale. If he doesn’t offer much to get excited about, he may be forced to use that eligibility again after spending all of his rookie season there.
He still must be wary of other challengers such as Derek Moye and Kashif Moore, who have accomplished about as much statistically this preseason as he has.
A lot is at stake at the wide receiver position for the Steelers heading into the preseason finale. Not only are there jobs to be won and lost, a decision must be made as to how many jobs are worth retaining. I’m not sure that last night’s game helped make the situation clearer.