With the 2015 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man offseason roster is getting pretty close to set, although there are always some late movements to balance out positional numbers or replace injured or underperforming players.
Now that the rookie class in in-house and the tryout players have either come and gone or stuck around, it’s time to take one last look at the Steelers’ roster as we head into the meat of the offseason. Next up will be the wide receiver position.
Antonio Brown: Brown is an All-Pro who is redefining what it means to be a wide receiver in Pittsburgh as he continues to break records. He is a literal model of consistency, having caught at least five passes for at least 50 yards in every game for the past two seasons. And he’s 26. As the young receiving corps behind him develops, teams may be forced to double him less.
Markus Wheaton: Wheaton is, of course, part of that young receiving corps. Entering his third season, he got off to a hot start last year but went through some dry spells. Still, he flashed a lot of potential, and is obviously an ascending player with clear talent.
Martavis Bryant: Wheaton may not be able to hang on to his starting job, however, with the emergence of Bryant last year, who in 11 games, including the postseason, recorded nine touchdown passes, which was easily the second-highest total on the team. He’s still got some polishing left to do, but he also has the drive to excel.
Sammie Coates: It’s quite possible that the rookie, Coates, is the most purely athletically gifted receiver on the team. He, like Bryant, is coming in fairly raw, and needs to improve his focus with respect to holding on to the ball, but he has big play ability that can be exploited early on, especially in conjunction with the rest of the offense.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Heyward-Bey hardly contributed on offense last year—his two most significant plays were a fumble after a reception and a drawn pass interference flag—but he proved his value on special teams and as a blocker.
The Field: The Steelers, unsurprisingly, have a bevy of young players in house right now, enough to regard them as ‘the field’, with little to no proven track record. The top of the list for now would be C.J. Goodwin, who spent all of last year on the practice squad despite not even participating in a preseason game.
Also on board are two former college quarterbacks in Tyler Murphy and Devin Gardner. They have to be considered longshots, but the fact that the Steelers brought both of them in for pre-draft visits is not to be ignored.
Rounding out the group are Eli Rogers and Shakim Phillips. The former is a squat slot receiver, while the latter has size, but has not even been officially announced as having signed yet. The official roster reflects this, as it only consists of 89 names for now.
Notes: Obviously, Dri Archer’s name needs to be included in here somewhere, as he is officially listed as a WR/RB on the roster, and the majority of his pro snaps have consisted of running routes. Whether or not that will shift in his second season remains to be seen. The Steelers figure to carry a couple of these guys from ‘the field’ on the practice squad, as they did last year.