The dead time during the NFL offseason is made to be filled with lists and endless speculation. Every media outlet, including us lowly bloggers, is admittedly guilty of it, though we still try to make it as interesting, relevant, and conversation-worthy as possible.
The latest bit of list-making come courtesy of Bucky Brooks yesterday for NFL.com, who put out a list of the league’s best pass-catching duos, and it is a list that I find rather interesting primarily due to the lack of representation from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fully aware of the insignificant and arbitrary nature of such lists, the lack of representation from the Steelers, which no doubt came as a result of the suspension of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, still, I think, provokes an interesting discussion about where the team itself currently stands among its pass catchers headed into next season.
It is noteworthy, of course, that Pittsburgh just who happens to have the best pass catcher in the league in the form of Antonio Brown, who has been an All-Pro player for three straight seasons and put up one of the great seasons in NFL history last year with 136 receptions (second-most ever), 1834 yards (fourth-most ever), and 10 touchdowns (first Steelers receiver to ever record double-digit receiving touchdowns in consecutive seasons).
It would almost stand to reason that his presence on the team would guarantee a slot on any list of the best pass-catching duos in the league, since, after all, he would make up half of that duo on his own, and his production is nearly the equivalent of two solid seasons.
But even without Bryant, the Steelers are far from bereft of quality pass-catchers, and I think the discussions woefully and unfortunately omits the services of running back Le’Veon Bell, who in 2014 caught 83 passes for 854 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.
His production was obviously more limited last season due to suspension, injury, and quarterback disruptions, but he should be primed to return to his playmaking self as the most complete back in the league.
The list also fails to note the arrival of tight end Ladarius Green, who is no longer in the shadows of a future Hall of Fame tight end and is stepping into his own, with a quarterback who can maximize his stellar combination of size, speed, and strength. He can fully be expected to put up quality numbers this season.
Aside from these two names, there are still wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates to discuss, one of whom figures to emerge as the primary number two receiver in Bryant’s place and will have the opportunity to put up quality numbers alongside Brown.
Considering the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished the 2015 season with one of the highest yards per game figures in NFL history, one can expect that the Steelers will pick up chunks of yardage through the air to spare, and that will come from many names that are not Brown.
I believe the Steelers have at least two, if not three names on this list that can pair with Brown to make one of the league’s top pass-catching duos with ease, even with Bryant out of the equation in 2016.