The Pittsburgh Steelers spent much of the time between their last playoff victory and now replenishing their roster in preparation for their next chance to make a push for a championship. Last season showed signs that the team was on its way out of that transitional phase after posting a division-winning 11-5 record following back to back .500 seasons.
Still, the Steelers failed to make it out of the divisional round, and have lost their last three postseason contests, dating back to Super Bowl XLV. They followed up that 2010 run with a 12-4 wildcard campaign that saw a first-round exit, and subsequently failed to return to the playoffs the following two years.
So how close might they be to righting the ship and returning to that place that they have been more than any other franchise—that is, holding up the Lombardi Trophy? One way to attempt to measure that would be to compare how this season’s lineup projects against past teams.
For these purposes, it might be helpful to cite both the 2008 and 2010 teams, which are, respectively, the teams that have claimed their most recent Super Bowl championship and their most recent Super Bowl appearance.
While we have previously looked at the top three receivers on each of the Steelers’ past contending teams, we have learned time and again that, especially in today’s game, the depth even further down the list can quickly become important. The truth is that the Steelers have been fairly fortunate in general over the years in terms of keeping their wide receivers healthy.
In 2008, the Steelers didn’t get much work from their fourth and fifth receivers. Their names? Limas Sweed and Dallas Baker. Sweed was a rookie at the time, but his struggles holding on to the ball limited his opportunities and he only lasted two seasons before he was released. Baker was even worse. In other words, it was quite fortunate that they were not forced to play much at all.
The 2010 season presented a bit of an interesting dynamic as rookie Emmanuel Sanders slowly took over the slot receiver role for Antwaan Randle El. Behind them were Antonio Brown and Arnaz Battle, the latter seeing just eight snaps on offense.
Brown was of course just a rookie sixth-round pick, and saw less than 100 snaps, a far cry from what he would become.
The wide receiver group that the Steelers are currently building, however, certainly has the potential to be the best that the team has had yet, with significant quality potentially making itself available beyond the top three.
Leading that group is Sammie Coates, a rookie third-round draft pick who has excellent size, speed, and strength, which the offense will want to take advantage of. Veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey is also showing his receiving ability during this camp.
There are a few other interesting wide receivers further down the list, but it’s hard to guarantee that a sixth wide receiver will make it onto the 53-man roster. rookie Eli Rogers and first-year C.J. Goodwin seem particularly intriguing, and both could end up on the practice squad.
Dri Archer will also get his contributions as a wide receiver. Ben Roethlisberger has a collection of talent around him that he has never had before. It could be an issue just to get enough balls to go around for all of them.