There seems to be an interesting development emerging among the wide receiving group for the Pittsburgh Steelers lately.
They’re getting taller.
Of course you have the 6’4” Martavis Bryant, drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. the Steelers added the 6’1” Sammie Coates in the third round earlier this month, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, a hanger-on from last year, is 6’2”.
But look deeper. It goes beyond that. Of the 10 wide receivers on the roster, seven of them are 6’1” or over. I can’t recall the last time even an offseason roster was so filled with big targets for Ben Roethlisberger, although we saw a trend toward that recently with Justin Brown and Derek Moye over the past two seasons.
Beyond the rookie draft pick and those with prior experience, the Steelers have brought in four more rookies and first-year players that bring height to the position, including C.J. Goodwin, listed by the team at 6’3”, who spent all of last year on the practice squad even though he failed to contribute during the preseason.
The two quarterback conversion prospects are hoping to use their size to their advantage as well. Tyler Murphy is listed at 6’2”, while Devin Gardner is 6’4”. Though still not officially announced yet, Shakim Phillips has been listed variably at between 6’1” and 6’3”, though the former appears to be the more likely.
Add in a possible pass catcher at tight end with the 6’7” Jesse James, who has already been talked about as a potential weapon in the red zone, and we see what at least on the surface appears to be the front office trying to surround their quarterback with the tall targets that he has taken a liking to.
Of course, the team’s two leading receivers a year ago, Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, are both under six foot, and the former has proven time and again that size doesn’t make you a better receiver after leading the league in receptions and receiving yardage.
It’s unlikely than any more than five wide receivers make the 53-man roster this year, and with Brown and Wheaton being two of them, the Steelers figure to have three receivers at their disposal over the six-foot mark.
But chances are good that they keep at least seven wide receivers in total between the 53-man roster and the 10-man practice squad after combining for eight at the beginning of last season, so that means at least one or more of these tall targets are likely to stick around.
Perhaps to the slight relief of some, that also means that the Steelers’ height-starved secondary should be able to get plenty of work in against taller wide receivers throughout the summer and through the season.
Senquez Golson talked about defending Mike Evans, and Doran Grant went up against Amari Cooper, so it’s not as though they’ve never seen taller wide receivers before. Antwon Blake actually defended the deep ball well against A.J. Green last year, for example. But it won’t hurt to be able to get that look with regularity in practice.