It’s quite rare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even as they increasingly turn to the air to find their production on the offensive side of the ball, to go into a season with six wide receivers on the roster, but that is just what they did last offseason as they looked to insulate themselves from a pair of losses at the position in free agency.
The Steelers have already cut two of those players from that roster since then, but they have retained the other four, and also added Sammie Coates in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
As it stands, it’s hard to imagine that there’s much hope for the team carrying more than five wide receivers this year for a second consecutive season, which might have some wondering why they’ve been so studious in adding wide receivers during this offseason, first as Reserve/Future players, and then as undrafted free agents.
Obviously, the Steelers need a lot of wide receivers just to get through practices, and if you include Dri Archer, they currently have 10 of them on the roster—or 11, presumably, if they ever announced the signing of Shakim Phillips, without whom they only have 89 players listed on their roster.
But even if the Steelers only carry five wide receivers on the 53-man roster this year, and even if those five slots may already be set—and I’m not saying they are—that doesn’t mean that these other wide receivers are just running around for their health.
If may be easy to forget, but the Steelers actually carried two wide receivers on their practice squad for much of the season as well, in addition to the six on the 53-man roster, as they began the year with Derek Moye and C.J. Goodwin both in tow. The former was eventually released, but Goodwin is still around.
It helped, of course, that the league changed the rules prior to the 2014 season, which expanded not only player eligibility for the practice squad, but also the practice squad number itself, from eight to 10. No doubt that benefited Moye.
And no doubt it will help the fringe wide receivers that the Steelers will bring with them to camp this year, including Goodwin, who somehow stuck on the practice squad all year despite minimal college experience and receiving no playing time during the preseason.
The Steelers have two wide receivers on the roster that they brought in for pre-draft visits, both of whom are converted quarterbacks attempting to make the transition in order to stick on an NFL roster.
That would be a tall task for either to stick onto Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster this year, but a practice squad spot could certainly be in the cards. And the same applies, of course, to whoever else fails to make the roster.