NFL Draft

Study: What Pittsburgh Looks For In Wide Receivers

We are back to do one of my favorite, and hopefully useful, studies during the season. Last year, we began to look at the type of prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers gravitated towards in each draft under the Tomlin/Colbert umbrella. We’ll reevaluate this year, tweak the numbers, and do the same. Like last year, we’ll list all the receivers the team has drafted.

Couple of caveats you need to know before we start this process. Any timed event, like the 40 or short shuttle, I take from the Combine only. Pro Day times can, and often are, better, but where they come from is unreliable and they’re all hand-timed, meaning you know every team has a different number. At the Combine, things are a little more reliable, even if teams do hand-time too. I will use the better Pro Day number for untimed events, like bench press or vertical. That’s the process we began with last year and we’ll stick with it.

Our cutoff for this year will be 75% of the picks have to meet the criteria. That creates the Steelers’ threshold. So if 7 of 10 players meet “X,” we can’t use it. If 8 of 10 do, that can be our threshold. And I do leave some breathing room, normally. If the threshold for the broad is 10’1, I’ll round it down to 10 foot even. Just to make things a little less rigid. You might disagree but I just want to be transparent in how we’re going about this.

2016: Demarcus Ayers

Height: 5’9/3
Weight: 182
40 Time: 4.72
Vertical: 35
Broad: 10’3”
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A

2015: Sammie Coates

Height: 6’1/2
Weight: 212
40 Time: 4.43
Vertical: 41.5
Broad: 10’11”
Short Shuttle 4.06
Three Cone: 6.98
Bench: 23

2014: Martavis Bryant 

Height: 6’3/6
Weight: 211
40 Time: 4.42
Vertical: 39
Broad: 10’4″
Short Shuttle 4.15
Three Cone: 7.18
Bench: 16

2013: Markus Wheaton

Height: 5’11
Weight: 189
40 Time: 4.45
Vertical: 37
Broad: 10’0″
Short Shuttle 4.02
Three Cone: 6.80
Bench: 20

Justin Brown

Height: 6’3/1
Weight: 207
40 Time:  4,60
Vertical: 30.5
Board: 9’9″
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: 8

2012: Toney Clemons

Height: 6’2/1
Weight: 210
40 Time: 4.40
Vertical: 36
Broad: 10’8″
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: 11

2010: Emmanuel Sanders

Height: 5’10/7
Weight: 186
40 Time: 4.41
Vertical: 39.5
Broad: 10’6″
Short Shuttle 4.10
Three Cone: 6.64
Bench: 12

Antonio Brown

Height: 5’10/1
Weight: 186
40 Time: 4.57
Vertical: 33.5
Broad: 8’9″
Short Shuttle 4.18
Three Cone: 6.98
Bench: 13

2009: Mike Wallace 

Height: 6’0/3
Weight: 199
40 Time: 4.33
Vertical: 40
Broad: 10’9″
Short Shuttle 4.27
Three Cone: 6.90
Bench: 14

2008: Limas Sweed

Height: 6’3/7
Weight: 215
40 Time: 4.55
Vertical: 37.5
Broad: 10’8″
Short Shuttle N/A
Three Cone: N/A
Bench: N/A

2007: Dallas Baker

Height: 6’3/1
Weight: 208
40 Time: 4.49
Vertical: 36
Broad: 10’9″
Short Shuttle 4.19
Three Cone: 6.69
Bench: N/A

Based off all this, here are our WR thresholds drat picks must meet. Next to each number is the number of draft picks who met it, again, keeping that 75% percentage in mind.

Height: 5’10+ (10 of 11)
Weight: 180+ (11 of 11)
40 Time: 4.57 (9 of 11)
Vert: 35+(10 of 11)
Broad: 10’ (9 of 11)
Sub 4.3 short shuttle (7 of 7)
Sub 7.0 three cone (6 of 7)
Bench: 10+ (7 of 8)

Coming through all the Combine invites, here are the five receivers who check every single one of those eight boxes.

Name Height Weight 40 Time Vertical Broad Short Shuttle Three Cone Bench
Jehu Chesson 6’2/6 204 4.47 39.5 11’0″ 4.09 6.70 13
Robert Davis 6’2/6 219 4.44 41 11’3″ 4.28 6.82 19
Kenny Golladay 6’3/6 218 4.50 35.5 10’0″ 4.15 7.00 18
Krishawn Hogan 6’2/5 222 4.56 36.5 10’3″ 4.21 6.74 13
Zay Jones 6’1/7 201 4.45 36.5 11’1″ 4.01 6.79 15

Despite a low bar of just 5’10, 180, every player who qualifies is at least 6’2.

I won’t throw out the chart again but here is the list of players who are just one “miss,” away and the category they’re missing.

Quincy Adeboyejo – Bench
Chris Godwin – Three Cone
Chad Hansen – Broad
Jerome Lane – 40
Keevan Lucas – Three Cone
Zach Pascal – Three Cone
Michael Rector – Bench
Josh Reynolds – Bench
Fred Ross – Broad
Taywan Taylor – Vertical

And here are the players who miss in at least half the categories, not counting injured players. These are guys I’d be surprised if the Steelers showed interest in/drafted.

Victor Bolden
Noah Brown
Billy Brown
Travin Dural
Cooper Kupp
James Quick
Darreus Rogers
Travis Rudolph
Artavis Scott
Ricky Seals-Jones
Trent Taylor
Noel Thomas

Like I said, I want to be transparent and show me work. Don’t want it to look too cluttered but here are screenshots of where each player misses, which you can see in two-parts here and also here.

So final takeaways: again, broadly, the Steelers look for athletic leapers. It’s no surprise to see Golladay be brought in, he checked every box, and Reynolds misses only because he didn’t participate in the bench press. He hits everything else. Robert Davis is a player we’ve mocked to the team on Day Three while Zay Jones is a second round pick that had an impressive Senior Bowl week. NFLDraftScout has Chesson listed as a late Day Three pick so he could be in play too as a high-upside prospect. And Hogan is a NAIA prospect, maybe the top one of them all.

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