While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
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 replace the recently released Lance Moore with another veteran receiver?
For the last several years, the Steelers have relied on a veteran presence in the wide receiver room to help nurture the growth of their budding young players. Back in 2010, it was Hines Ward babysitting the ‘Young Money’ Crew, two-thirds of which are now gone.
After Ward retired, that role fell to Jerricho Cotchery, who served it well. Markus Wheaton spoke his praises at every opportunity about how much the then-rookie learned from him during the 2013 season.
After Cotchery signed with the Panthers in free agency, the Steelers brought in another veteran, Lance Moore, to fill that void and to provide depth, which they felt was particularly necessary at the beginning of the season. He never really wound up fulfilling either of those roles, and was just recently released.
The Steelers now just have three wide receivers from last season’s roster under contract for 2015, including Wheaton, entering his third year, and Martavis Bryant, a second-year player who flashed as a rookie despite his raw game. Does the team still need a sheepdog?
I think that the answer is no. If you look at the character makeup of both Wheaton and Bryant, they simply don’t need monitoring for off-the-field concerns, or to keep them motivated on the field. Wheaton has always been well-spoken with a good head on his shoulders, and Bryant, as a parent motivated to elevate himself from his childhood circumstances, doesn’t seem like somebody who needs to be taught a lesson. He took the initiative himself to train in his off time.
What they do lack through the nuances of the game they can certainly learn through Brown, who is entering his sixth season and coming off the best year a Steelers wide receiver has ever had. Wide receivers coach Richard Mann is also a disciplinarian and a stickler for the fundamentals of the position.
When considering something such as this, it’s important to look at the actual makeup of the players on your roster, and when I look at the Steelers’ three young receivers, I don’t see a group that is interested in horsing around.