When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, the Pittsburgh Steelers are very nearly a complete unit—assuming, of course, that their franchise quarterback indeed returns. They have their starting offensive line cemented in place, and even some solid depth. They have their running back, and their fullback. They have their top receiving threat. The only areas of uncertainty are at the tight end position, and in the second wide receiver role.
And they may already have the answers to those questions in-house, but it will be a matter of time before they get it sorted out. If Ladarius Green is healthy—which we don’t know—he will answer the question at tight end, or at least fill in the biggest blank. When it comes to the wide receiver position opposite Antonio Brown, however, Head Coach Mike Tomlin is looking forward to the competitors sort themselves out in training camp.
“I’m excited about watching those guys sort themselves out”, Tomlin told reporters recently at the league meetings. “We’re not short of candidates and capable men. That’s’ a great place to start”. He is referring, of course, to the barrage of wide receivers they have on the roster who will be vying for the starting job.
One major component in that competition seems to be a step closer to reasserting himself, as according to reports, Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement from suspension was deemed “imminent” by a league source. Once he is back in the fold, he will no doubt be the immediate frontrunner for the job, which he has filled before.
Also having occupied that position in the past is third-year wide receiver Sammie Coates, who got off to an explosive start to the 2016 season, recording 19 receptions for 421 yards and two touchdowns before a hand injury completely derailed his season.
After losing Markus Wheaton in free agency—yet another player who has played the second fiddle to Brown’s lead instrument—the Steelers added Justin Hunter, a tall, fast, pedigreed player who is never the less on his fourth different team now in three seasons. Still, he will be given the opportunity to earn the role like the rest of them. He has the talent in a similar mold to Bryant and Coates, but has never played with the quality of quarterback as Ben Roethlisberger.
“He’s big, fast, and has been a consistent big play maker”, Tomlin said of Hunter. He described Coates similarly and said that he will “expect him to continue to grow and evolve and come with the level of preparedness that he had last year and hopefully with the level of improvement that he had last year”.
Despite all the potential that is offered in players such as Bryant, Coates, and Hunter, the Steelers could still address the wide receiver position in the draft, which could prove to amount to a spoil of riches if their stable of wide receivers actually manages to live up to their potential, or even close to it.