For a team that has historically built its legacy on a powerful ground game, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly appear to have a spoil of riches in the passing game this season—or, at the very least, they have that potential. Speaking of the wide receivers alone, the Steelers could possibly have their best pair of playmakers ever, and that is with two Hall of Fame teammates.
Of course, the intention here is not to start a debate between the modern era and the 70s and the variety of ways that the league has changed to favor the passing game since then. The point is simply that the Steelers’ starting wide receivers this year have the potential to be really, really good.
And it is precisely because the passing game is so heavily featured based on how the rules play out that it is more imperative than ever for thriving offenses to have multiple top-caliber receiving threats.
The Steelers arguably came closest to this in recent history in 2012, when their starting wide receivers were Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, but unfortunately neither had their best seasons.
Wallace missed the only game of his career that year and posted a comparatively miniscule 13.1 yards per reception, though he did manage to secure eight touchdowns. After back-to-back 1000-yard seasons, he finished that year with only 836 yards.
Brown, meanwhile, had just emerged the year prior while not even in the starting lineup, becoming the first player in NFL history to record 1000 yards receiving in addition to 1000 yards in returns in the same season.
But in his first year as a full-time starter in 2012, he missed three games with an ankle injury, finishing with just 787 yards and five touchdowns, fumbling four times in the process, though he finished the season with a touchdown in four straight games.
Since then, Brown has emerged as arguably the best wide receiver in the game, leading the league last year with 129 receptions and 1698 yards, while his 13 receiving touchdowns were the most in Steelers history.
Meanwhile, rookie Martavis Bryant exploded in the last 10 games of the season with eight touchdowns, leading the league with 21.1 yards per catch and making the Steelers the only team in the league with five different targets to record at least 500 receiving yards.
Though it’s little surprise, Bryant continues to receive attention for his potential to break out in his second year, with Bucky Brooks naming Ben Roethlisberger to Bryant one of the 10 ‘rising pitch-and-catch combos’ for the upcoming season. Noting a need to polish up his route running, Brooks writes that “the Steelers’ young stud could become a household name by season’s end”.
Bryant’s inclusion in the list is not the only interesting thing about it, however, as five of the 10 entries on the list happen to be second-year wide receivers, strengthening the notion that the 2014 class was among the greatest of all time for wide receivers. Also featured on the list are John Brown of the Cardinals, Davante Adams of the Packers, Donte Moncrief of the Colts, and Allen Robinson of the Jaguars.