With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: WR Antonio Brown
Stock Value: Up
It’s hard to believe that there could be more to Antonio Brown, but there is. He has already shown it, of course. The 2016 season may have been worthy of yet another first-team All-Pro designation for the seven-year veteran, but it was not the best he’s done, or is capable of doing.
And he is primed to do even better yet again because of the sort of supporting cast that is projected to be around him this year. Most notable is the return from suspension of Martavis Bryant, who split first-team reps at wide receiver during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in 21 games of regular-season action.
The Steelers for most of the 2016 had great instability at the number two position, cycling from Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Cobi Hamilton, with Coates the only one proving to be worthy of the task until he suffered a pair of broken fingers after five games, much to the detriment of the balance of the offense.
That will change with Bryant back in the lineup, and they are far more insulated against injury or struggles this year than they were a year ago. The long and short of all this is that opposing teams are going to have far greater difficulty placing two or even three defenders on Brown, as they were able to do last year.
And that is going to mean a greater percentage of one-on-one opportunities. You would think that the talent around him is going to cause his targets to drop, in the name of spreading the ball around, but Ben Roethlisberger is always going to make Brown his first read, and if he gets open, he is getting the ball.
Whatever lost production there might be from simply having more talent around him is going to be offset by the increased production that will come from teams being unable to commit as many resources toward defending him as they had last season.
It’s not like he’s showing any signs of slowing down. Fresh off a $68 million four-year extension, he continues to be the most consistent and hardest worker on the team. Just ask Joshua Dobbs, who tired of hearing the stories about his work ethic until he was able to witness it for himself.