The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this league year with 12 players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, and another three players who would be restricted free agents. They ended up retaining five of those unrestricted free agents in addition to tendering all three of their restricted free agents.
Pittsburgh also added help from outside of the organization at running back, but suffered two free agency losses, one to another team and the other to retirement. The Steelers also released two players, while five of their unrestricted free agents remain unsigned.
The organization has been clear throughout recent weeks that the organization has essentially wrapped up all meaningful free agent activities. Perhaps there may be a modest addition or re-signing or two in the secondary between now and the draft, but now is a good time to take a look back and see where each position started at the beginning of the process and where it is now leading up to the draft.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total Positional Figure: 8
Offseason additions: 2 (2 Reserve/Future Signings)
Offseason losses: 0
Antonio Brown: Further accolades are not necessary at this point for Antonio Brown after he posted franchise-best numbers in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns all in the same season, while also throwing a touchdown pass and scoring on a punt return. Guy is pretty good. And still young.
Markus Wheaton: Markus Wheaton didn’t quite have the breakout season that some had him pegged for, but he started off strong, and then finished strong. Though he only had two touchdowns, he ultimately was a pretty solid player, but he will struggle to hold on to this starting job this season.
Martavis Bryant: Martavis Bryant is the Steelers wide receiver that actually did have the breakout season. He scored nine touchdowns in 11 games played, including the postseason, and led all eligible receivers in yards per reception. His touchdowns came from distance, at the goal line, and just inside the red zone, so that’s nice variety. His size and speed make his learning curve much easier to bear, but he appears to have all the work ethic in the world to help him succeed.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Though he hardly contributed on offense, Darrius Heyward-Bey over time became a core special teams player. With a more stable situation and a higher place on the depth chart, perhaps he could see more snaps on offense. At the very least he has the straight line speed to take the top off of the coverage.
C.J. Goodwin: Nobody who wasn’t at training camp, pretty much, has seen C.J. Goodwin play yet. But the coaches really seem to like him, because he wouldn’t be here otherwise. He has good size and reportedly has made some impressive catches in practice. He spent all season on the practice squad while other wide receivers were released, and that’s certainly notable.
Players Not Retained:
Lance Moore: Technically, Lance Moore was released, rather than simply not being retained, because he still had a year under contract. He underwhelmed after signing a free agent deal and never developed a natural rapport with the quarterback.
L’Damian Washington (Reserve/Future): Another size prospect at 6’4”, though a bit thin. He’s a longshot, but we’ll see.
Brelan Chancellor (Reserve/Future): A short receiver with return ability, whose absolute upside would be a slot receiver. Likely has too steep a hill to climb.
Notes: There are two other wide receivers on the roster, one of which is RB/WR Dri Archer. WR Tim Benford spent a brief period of time on the practice squad and finished the year on the practice squad reserve/injured list. He’s still listed on the roster, at least for the time being.