This is going to be an interesting game. I think we already know that. But it’s going to be especially interesting to see what is supposed to be a Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver group that is close to 100 percent. And they will also be doing so against the Baltimore Ravens secondary that is at less than 100.
A number of Steelers wide receivers are working their way back from injuries, and that includes All-Pro Antonio Brown, who suffered a hip injury in the game heading into the bye week that caused him to miss time in the second half.
In addition to Brown, of course, Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates have also been ailing and were literal or virtual non-factors in the last two games. Wheaton has missed four games, including the last two, with a shoulder injury, while Coates has been trying to adjust to playing with a fractured finger.
On top of that, Eli Rogers, who has missed two games with a toe injury, spent the last game on the bench for disciplinary reasons. He has effectively missed three and a half of the team’s past five games, so his insertion back into the lineup is no small thing.
On the flip side, the Ravens are likely to be without Shareece Wright, who has been a starter, but has struggled, and they also just released Will Davis. There is talk that Jimmy Smith might shadow Brown throughout the game, so that could create some opportunities for the Steelers’ other receivers.
The category of ‘other receivers’ might even go so far as to include Cobi Hamilton, who has been on the practice squad for the past three weeks, catching five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in two games’ worth of limited action. He was called up due to injuries, but everybody is expected to be back now. He played well, however, and plays on special teams, so he and his 6’2” frame and blocking ability could be an option in some select roles.
Even with all hands on deck—broken fingers or no—the Steelers’ wide receiver group is not likely to be completely at full capacity, but tomorrow’s game should see them as close to full strength as they have been pretty much all season, considering they began the year without Wheaton.
Of course, there is another big caveat in the equation, that being the fact that the quarterback position is going to be compromised as well, regardless of who actually takes the field, whether it is an injured starter or a backup player.
Hopefully, this group of wide receivers can start getting back on track, even if the Ravens’ defense has rarely proven to be a good opponent to do it against. Baltimore knows how to play the Steelers’ wide receivers, and that will be a hurdle to get over. But the right game plan can put them in the right position to make plays, and that includes Le’Veon Bell in the equation as a pass catcher.