So, it’s time to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fully-stocked cupboard at the wide receiver position. Pittsburgh is bringing with them arguably the deepest group of wide receivers, from the top to the bottom, that they have ever seen in their history. And yet so few of them have actually produced a significant body of work.
Those are really two separate conversations to have, however, and I intend to have both of them in full. The latter will be reserved for tomorrow. For today, I want to talk about the substantial depth with which they are scheduled to head into training camp, from Antonio Brown all the way down to Canaan Severin and Marcus Tucker.
The Steelers currently have on their 53-man roster 11 wide receivers, and with the exception of free agent Justin Hunter and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, all of them were already a part of the Steelers organization during the 2016 season.
In the cases of the previously mentioned Severin and Tucker, the former spent the year on the injured reserve list, while the latter spent time on the practice squad after their other practice squad wide receivers at the time—Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers—were called up to the 53-man roster.
So we might as well start at the beginning. A very easy case can be made that Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the game, and one of the greatest wide receivers to ever suit up—for the latter, though, that may be more true in a few more years. Still, he already has a unique resume that includes the most receptions during a four-year span in history, four consecutive seasons of more than 100 receptions, and the only player ever to record a 1000-yard season both in receiving yards and return yards.
This year, he gets back his wing man in Martavis Bryant, and he struggled to contain his enthusiasm back during OTAs about what that would mean for how teams would have to play the two. For his part, Bryant looks ready to take on the league after transforming body and mind following a year’s suspension.
Sammie Coates spent the first quarter-plus of last season looking like a mini-Bryant out there, and even doing a better job as a deep threat, coming down with six catches of 40-plus yards in five games. He will be looking to rediscover that form after breaking his fingers.
Then there is Eli Rogers, who had an encouraging and productive first season over 12 and a half games in the slot. Both Hamilton and Ayers performed well and boasted a full repertoire, including blocking ability, when they were called up.
That alone would make a good roster. But then there’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, the best blocker on the team and the veteran and mentor in the locker room. He is still a deep threat. Free agent Hunter is an explosive play waiting to happen as well, with size, speed, and the ability to line up in the slot.
Smith-Schuster is one of, if not the youngest player in the entire league, but he already has the mentality of a veteran, and he will demand early playing time, or so it seems.
There’s a reason the Steelers didn’t really even bother with undrafted free agent rookie wide receivers. They already have more than enough hands on deck. Severin and Tucker were the two most promising players from last year’s group and they have already brought them back. On a 90-man roster, on paper at least, you can consider this absolutely stacked from top to bottom, bottom to top.