One of the biggest questions the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking at on the offensive side of the ball is who their third wide receiver is going to be, working alongside Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, the latter of whom was immediately put into work with the first-team unit after returning from suspension.
While the Steelers spent the majority of their offensive snaps with three wide receivers on the field, they don’t use as many three-receiver sets as become the norm—at least that proved to be the case last season, which could be an aberration due to injuries and the late-season focus on running the ball.
But with that in mind, I think it would be a worthwhile service to look at the Steelers’ wide receiver group from last season relative to how they performed, specifically, when lining up in the slot in passing situations, because, generally speaking, the third wide receiver is probably going to spend the vast majority of time in that role.
Over the course of the next several days, I am going to review the application for each candidate for the job based on their 2016 performance there where applicable—which will not be the case for rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster for obvious reasons, while at the same time serving the purpose of talking about each player relative to their ability to play in the slot.
Candidate 4: Cobi Hamilton
It should be pointed out for starters that in order for Cobi Hamilton to be a candidate to play in the slot for the Steelers during the 2017 season, he is going to have to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, and he has some quite long odds in order to do so even though the coaching staff likes a lot of what he brings to the table.
But the purpose of this study was to include all the wide receivers who were on the Steelers’ roster last season and who remain with the team, so that includes Hamilton, who spent the majority of his time on the field lining up on the outside, rather than in the slot.
The 6’2” wide receiver saw playing time on 229 passing snaps, but he was aligned in the slot in those instances on just 21 snaps, or roughly nine percent of his workload on passing plays. He was only targeted three times, catching two of his targets for a total of five yards. The incompletion, on a pass thrown 17 yards down the field, came from Landry Jones.
He didn’t see much more time in the slot in running situations, adding just 14 more snaps to his slot total on an extra 125 snaps. In the majority of such cases, the Steelers set him up as the lone receiver on one side of the field.
I don’t know what his background is in college, but if I were to make an educated guess, I would have to wager that he did not spend a lot of time working out of the slot. That rarely seems to be the case, especially at the college level, for taller wide receivers. He also played just six of 83 postseason snaps in the slot, receiving one target that he did not catch (but did not drop).
With such a small body of work, despite a large number of snaps, it seems unlikely that the Steelers would really look at Hamilton as a serious candidate for future slot work—which could be different for tomorrow’s subject, Demarcus Ayers.