Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into OTAs, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2014 to 2015—more so than usual, perhaps, with the retirement of three starters on the defensive side of the ball alone.
We’ve just wrapped up our look at the four noteworthy defensive contributors that the Steelers parted ways with from last season, and as we turn our focus to the offensive side of the ball, one thing becomes obvious: these losses don’t seem to hurt nearly as much.
Justin Brown was a sixth-round draft pick at the wide receiver position in the 2013 NFL Draft. After losing out for the last wide receiver spot on the 53-man roster during his rookie season, he used that time to improve his game on the practice squad, and he was rewarded with a helmet on game day to start the 2014 season.
Brown, in fact, beat out Derek Moye, who won the final roster spot the year prior, as the two swapped spots on the 53-man roster and practice squad from one year to the next. And he was given the opportunity early in the season to make contributions and to cement his role in the offense.
Brown played 265 snaps during the first six games of the season, prior to rookie Martavis Bryant exploding. Brown didn’t see another snap for the rest of the year, and was eventually released after the season finale in order for the Steelers to open up a roster spot for Ben Tate.
The second-year receiver was given opportunities. He was targeted 20 times during his six games active, catching 12 of them, which is an okay ratio, but not so much when considering his shallow depth of target. He accumulated just 94 yards on those 12 receptions, dropping two passes.
He also fumbled the ball on the Steelers’ opening drive against the Ravens in Week Two, which got the ball rolling on what ended up turning into a blowout. Pittsburgh would have liked Brown to have lived up to the media hype he was given during last offseason, but he struggled, even when they needed him most at the beginning of the year with Lance Moore out.
Now he’s struggling to make a roster elsewhere, with the Steelers adding yet another quality prospect through the draft in what should be a very deep roster position.