Prior to becoming an offensive coordinator in the league, Pittsburgh Steelers play caller Todd Haley coached wide receivers for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Chicago Bears, so he knows quite a bit about the position and what takes to succeed there in the NFL.
During his weekly talk with Bob Labriola on Steelers Nation Radio, Haley was asked about what some of the things wide receivers need to know and learn when they make the transition from college to the NFL.
“I think the biggest thing from an Xs and Os standpoint is there’s much more diversified coverage,” said Haley. “As a college receiver, you see one or two coverage a game. It’s much easier to prepare for those coverages. You have less adjustments as a receiver from a route tree standpoint and in the NFL with the amount of coverages you see, the complexity of those coverages, the disguises that NFL defenses are able to use because of more time to prepare – more time together, all of those things make it a little more complicated job and its happening fast.
“So that’s the biggest thing and the second thing is just the intensity and game speed and we talk about playoffs, when you look at NFL games, there’s a certain intensity level for preseason games which is more speed and intensity than any of these players have ever seen coming from college. That notches up a little bit for the regular season and when you get into divisional games, it notches up and when you get into the playoffs, it continues to move up in intensity and energy and speed and all things that haven’t been seen by some of these young guys.”
While the Steelers do struggle at getting some college players at certain positions to make the jump to the NFL, they have done a fantastic job when it comes to wide receiver position over the course of the last several years. Antonio Brown is a perfect example of that as he was drafted in the sixth-round and has now become the best in the league. Former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders certainly excelled some in Pittsburgh early on in his career, albeit not as much as Brown, and he was drafted in the third round.
While Martavis Bryant is certainly not where he needs to be just yet when it comes to him reaching his full potential, we have seen glimpses of greatness from him already in his first two seasons. Additionally, Markus Wheaton had a phenomenal game against the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season and he continues to make strides as well.
Next season, the Steelers will look to get Sammie Coates integrated more into their offense after drafting him this year in the third round. Luckily, they haven’t needed him this season thanks to the four players ahead of him on the depth chart.
Wide receiver coach Richard Mann has done a great job during his time in Pittsburgh so he deserves a lot credit when comes to helping the younger pass catchers on the team make the tough transition that Haley detailed a bit easier. We’ll see in a few more days if this group of Steelers receivers are ready for the intensity, speed and energy of playoff football.