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Devil’s Advocate: Tall Task For Tall WRs In Red Zone

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will the rapid influx of tall receiving targets make the difference for the Steelers’ offense in the red zone?

It has been several years now that we have been talking about the Steelers finally making that push to crank it up in the red zone and really get things done on the scoreboard, but for the most part, they have struggled to move that needle.

They actually did quite well during the 2015 season when Ben Roethlisberger was on the field, but his replacements during the quarter of the season that they missed were so spectacularly bad in the red zone that it really sunk their overall numbers.

This year, they have done something different and have surrounded Roethlisberger with tall targets at the wide receiver position. Of the 11 wide receivers on the roster right now, seven of them are over six feet tall, and that includes Martavis Bryant, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Cobi Hamilton, and Canaan Severin. At least three or four of them will likely make the 53-man roster.

One thing we already know about Bryant, who was missing last season, is that he has a solid touchdown-to-target ratio, and a fair number of those touchdowns did some in the red zone. Roethlisberger likes the tall targets, and Heyward-Bey said that he is looking forward to being able to utilize them in that area of the field this year.

But that doesn’t actually mean that things will get better. Quite frankly, a lot of the issues in the red zone last season were not about a dearth of talent or of height but in struggles of execution and play-calling, the former being the more prominent.

Improving the talent should help some, but they have to execute better in that area of the field, which is naturally more difficult to do, and they have to put themselves in better positions to succeed based on the play called. Most of the time, that has little to do with wide receiver height.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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