In the last game against the Houston Texans, the Pittsburgh Steelers were surprisingly versatile with their wide receiver groupings, interchanging pieces frequently, with Antonio Brown being the only consistent fixture for obvious reasons.
For his part, Brown played 62 of the team’s 67 offensive snaps, but he was the only receiver among the five active that played even half of the team’s snaps.
Second-most came from the other starting receiver, Markus Wheaton, who played a season-low 31, the first time this year he’s played less than 60 percent of the offensive snaps.
The Steelers started Lance Moore for the second straight game, but this time it wasn’t a token snap, keeping him on the bench after the first snap until they racked up a huge deficit. He was third on the team among wide receivers with 23 snaps, and played most of the 11 personnel snaps with Wheaton on the field.
But Todd Haley often swapped Wheaton and Moore with Darrius Heyward-Bey and rookie Martavis Bryant, playing in the first game of his career.
Up until this past game, the veteran Heyward-Bey had been relegated to serving as the fifth receiver. I suppose he was still technically the fifth receiver in this game as well, but this time the Steelers actually rotated personnel.
He logged double-digit snaps for the first time with Pittsburgh, playing 21 in total. He caught a key 17-yard pass on third and nine from the two-yard line.
But the rookie Bryant got on the field even more frequently, playing 24 snaps and being targeted five times in the game. Four of those targets came on deep balls, and though only one of them was caught, it resulted in a 35-yard reception. The other three were uncatchable, but he did nearly fight over a defender to get under another one.
That’s a good start for the rookie, who also saw a snap here and there with only two receivers on the field, or with Moore in the slot. I would imagine that he’ll continue to be active for now until he shows the Steelers should do otherwise.
The main storyline to take away from this is the fact that the Steelers got five different receivers over 20 snaps each in one game. I’m not sure when is the last time that’s occurred, considering there have been years in which they haven’t even carried five receivers.
Justin Brown was the odd man out this time, despite the fact that he logged over 250 snaps through the team’s first six games.
He found himself inactive in order for Bryant to get his first helmet, but the end result is that the Steelers were given the opportunity to distribute snaps with greater frequency and equality. It seemed to work pretty well against the Texans, and I wonder if that might continue.