No matter how good your team may be doing, there will always be a vocal cross-section of the fan base that, at any given point during the season, is already looking at who their favorite team should be drafting the following spring.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is certainly no exception, and, though they finally went 11-5 and won their division, even the most diehard fan could not deny that the organization has some holes to fill.
While the offense improved, and is on an upward trajectory, there are still tweaks to be made, and successors to be found. The defense has struggled, and is switching coordinators, which may call for a slightly different type of player.
So we’ll take a look at the Steelers roster position by position in the early offseason to determine how each group stacks up in terms of draft need. Last time, we looked at quarterbacks. Today, we’ll go over the players on the other end of their passes, the wide receivers.
Antonio Brown: In no need of further accolades. Pro Bowler and All-Pro for two straight seasons. He recorded the second-most receptions in a season in NFL history and shattered his own team record in receiving yards, at nearly 1700. His 13 touchdown receptions were the most by a Steelers receiver ever. And he’s still a young player.
Markus Wheaton: A player in transition? Wheaton was hardly able to contribute as a rookie, but was inserted into the starting lineup in the beginning of year two. After some early success, he experienced some ups and downs before leveling off. Is he destined for the slot next season?
Martavis Bryant: Flashy rookie season with the promise of growth. Bryant could be the player who forces Wheaton into the slot. While he still has much to learn in terms of grasping the complete playbook and some of the finer points of his craft, he is perhaps the favorite at this point to start opposite Brown after recording nine touchdowns in 11 games.
Lance Moore: Soon-to-be street free agent. After leaking his request for release, Moore and his agent are hoping to get a jump on free agency while parting ways in a manner that sheds him in better light. This free agent plan never quite worked out, but fixing it by granting his wish won’t hurt much.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: A cheap, solid depth option. With Moore in all likelihood gone, Heyward-Bey would figure to move up the depth chart behind the top three, assuming that both he and the Steelers are willing to further their relationship on financially minimal terms, as he will be a free agent.
C.J. Goodwin: The wildcard, at the moment. Low production in college but with promising physical assets and a Hall of Famer vouching for him, Goodwin lasted on the practice squad throughout the season, while other receivers were released, despite not even seeing time in the preseason.
Draft Strategy: While the top of the depth chart seems pretty much locked up, even with Heyward-Bey being presumed to be re-signed, while projecting Moore’s release, the Steelers might still look to the wide receiver position late in the draft, perhaps with an eye toward a player that can contribute as a returner. It’s unlikely that they would look here on the first two days of the draft.