The Pittsburgh Steelers will hold their first training camp practice of 2017 on Friday and they’ll do so without the services of three of the 11 wide receivers they have under contract. Those shorter lines will present instant opportunities for a few other wide receivers to impress and one in particular.
With Sammie Coates and Canaan Severin both being placed on the team’s Active PIP list on Thursday, in addition to Martavis Bryant likely to miss roughly a week of practice due to procedural issues related to his conditional reinstatement, the Steelers will open training camp Friday with just eight wide receivers on the field. One of those eight and the one who likely stands to gain the most with Coates and Bryant sidelined, is newcomer Justin Hunter.
Hunter, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers this past March, offers his new team the same kind of skill set that both Bryant and Coates possess. He is long and speedy just like his currently sidelined teammates and has a brief history of being able to catch the deep ball.
While Hunter’s career hasn’t gone likely many probably expected it would after he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Tennessee, it goes without saying that he’s yet to have a high-quality NFL quarterback throwing him the football. That’s no longer the case now that he’s in Pittsburgh as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws one of the best deep balls in the league.
Hunter originally hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia so it goes without saying that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin already has a thick book on his newest wide receiver as he hails from that area as well. Tomlin will give Hunter every opportunity to make the 53-man roster during the next five weeks and with camp opening with shorter lines at the wide receiver position, he should get plenty of reps.
Availability during training camp is always a much-needed ability for roster bubble players such as Hunter and right now that’s something he possesses. His other abilities have been shown on game tape over the course of the last four seasons and now he just needs to show them more consistently.
Hunter now has Richard Mann coaching him and he’s one of the best in the NFL at what he does. In short, the breaks are going Hunter’s way at the start of training camp and if he ultimately fails to make the 53-man roster, he’ll only have himself to blame.