Continuing our offseason series “Ranking the Rooms” at Steelers Depot, today we’ll take a look at the ever-popular wide receiver rooms across the AFC North.
With headline stars such as Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Steve Smith and (hopefully) Josh Gordon leading the way in a loaded North, this list became very difficult to put together.
As always, I’m sure the list will spark some debate, so here we go.
No. 1 — Pittsburgh Steelers
When you have the best receiver in football in your position group, it bumps the rest of the group up the list, which is exactly what Antonio Brown has done for the Pittsburgh Steelers since taking over as the No. 1 option for Ben Roethlisberger.
With AB drawing tons of attention wherever he lines up on the field, that opens things up for guys like Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. You can also include second-year receiver Sammie Coates in this discussion as well.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the loss of Martavis Bryant for the 2016 season due to suspension narrows the gap between them and the Cincinnati Bengals, who also lost some key contributors from last season.
Pittsburgh will be just fine though; this franchise does a tremendous job of finding hidden gems in the draft and Coates certainly looks like the next one that could turn into diamond on the field.
No. 2 — Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, the Bengals lost Mohammed Sanu (Atlanta Falcons) and Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions) to free agency, but the AFC North rivals continue to just stock the cupboard with tasty treats, starting with second-round pick Tyler Boyd, whom I loved in the draft process.
Boyd will step into the Sanu role along side AJ Green and pick up right where the tandem left off last season.
Much like Brown in Pittsburgh, Green draws so much attention that it makes it easier for guys like Boyd, Brandon LaFell (another underrated acquisition by the Bengals), Brandon Tate, Cody Core and Mario Alford to work in space.
With Andy Dalton slinging the ball around to a talented group of receivers, Cincinnati should once again be dangerous in the AFC.
No. 3 — Cleveland Browns
Whoa! The Browns aren’t last in a position group!
With the conditional reinstatement of Josh Gordon last week, the Browns’ receiving corps got a major boost for new quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Along with Gordon and veteran holdover Andrew Hawkins, rookies Corey Coleman (Baylor), Ricardo Louis (Auburn), Rashard Higgins (Colorado State) and Jordan Payton (UCLA) round out an impressive group on paper (or a electronic device screen in this instance).
For the Browns to really make a big leap this season, the young, talented group out wide has to step up in a big way. The talent is there, now it’s all about putting it together. If things go in the right direction, this group could be the best in the north in a few years.
No. 4 — Baltimore Ravens
Outside of Steve Smith (coming off of a torn Achilles at age 37) and second-year receiver Breshad Perriman (who can’t seem to get onto the field due to injuries) the room seems very average for the Ravens.
Kamar Aiken led Baltimore in receiving last year, while Mike Wallace can’t even seem to pass a conditioning test to start camp. Rookies Chris Moore (Cincinnati) and Keenan Reynolds (another personal favorite, out of Navy)could have big roles, especially Moore, who should become the homerun threat that Joe Flacco loves to utilize down the field.
Outside of those four, Jeremy Butler is back for another year in the purple and black, while Chris Matthews joins him.
There are plenty of recognizable names at wide receiver for the Ravens, but Smith might never bounce back from the injury, Perriman might never live up to lofty expectations due to injuries and Wallace is at the tail end of his career.
The best hope for Baltimore is for the young guys in Moore and Reynolds to have big impacts and really, really hope Perriman gets onto the field and becomes stud No. 1 that Ozzie Newsome was hoping for when he drafted him No. 26 overall in 2015.