The calendar is quickly flipping through the month of April, and each day brings us closer and closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, teams should have by and large accomplished everything that they have set out to do in terms of free agent roster building, which means that their sole focus is now preparing for the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally been able to clear the Troy Polamalu hurdle and settle into their pre-draft roster. We have broken down the Steelers’ moves at each position in free agency in terms of re-signings, free agent additions and subtractions, cuts, and retirements, so now we begin the final process: determining draft needs.
The third position up for evaluation is the wide receiver group, which is spearheaded by an All-Pro and flanked by two promising young players, but offers little else up until this point.
Naturally, we begin with Antonio Brown, the veteran wide receiver on the roster. A former sixth-round draft pick, Brown emerged as a full-time starter in his third season and has been named to the All-Pro team (first-team All-Pro in 2014) in the past two years.
Despite his stature, Brown has emerged as a success in the end zone despite lacking a tremendous amount of deep ball production, having accumulated 21 touchdown receptions over the past two seasons. Last year, he also recorded more receiving yards than anybody in team history, and had the second-most receptions in a season in the history of the league.
Brown will only be turning 27 in July, which is somewhat hard to fathom given how much he has already accomplished. But what else to the Steelers have without Brown? What if he misses a game?
Behind Brown are two young receivers in Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant, entering their third and second seasons, respectively. Bryant, of course, had a breakout rookie year in terms of efficiency once he got on the field, recording eight touchdowns in 10 games while leading the league in yards per reception among players with the requisite number of catches.
Wheaton had a tough rookie season with injuries and depth chart politics, but he moved into the starting lineup in year two, and started off well. He went through a dry spell in which his confidence seemed to be shaken during the middle of the season, resulting in dropped balls and miscommunication with his quarterback. The two will compete for the starting role this summer.
Beyond these three is veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey and a number of futures players. The Steelers would like to add to this position in the draft, certainly, if possible, but perhaps the number of high-round prospects that they have shown interest in might be surprising.
While they have looked at a small handful of day one or two candidates, I do believe that the Steelers are more likely to add another receiver to the roster on day three, particularly a player who can play the slot, and possibly return kicks. There are a few interesting names to be had in the late rounds if this is the route that the team takes.