Wide receiver was undoubtedly the deepest position on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster. So there was no question it was a tough decision to figure out the final spots. Ultimately, it went to Justin Hunter and Mike Tomlin explained why at his opening press conference.
“He’s been a consistent playmaker for us largely over the course of this process,” Tomlin told reporters. “Whether it’s OTAs, or training camp, kinda highlighted by that significant play in Carolina the other night.”
That catch, a 58 yard touchdown down the right sideline from Josh Dobbs, seems to have cemented his spot. Sammie Coates was shipped out of Cleveland and Demarcus Ayers cut, now on the Patriots’ practice squad.
Hunter certainly has the triangle numbers and at moments throughout his career, played to those measurables. He caught four touchdowns on ten receptions last year with the Buffalo Bills, showing position flexibility by playing on the outside and in the slot.
While he doesn’t offer any special teams value, if he can earn a helmet on game day, he’s another red zone/situational option for a Steelers team that struggled to close out drives last season.
“He’s made splash plays,” Tomlin said, continuing to explain the decision “He’s utilized his physical tools well. His size, his speed, for those reasons, we’re excited he’s apart of us.”
The person who seemed to be in his corner the most throughout this process was Ben Roethlisberger. He repeatedly praised Hunter, Talking with 93.7 The Fan in mid-August, Big Ben seemed to be coming away pretty impressed.
“I threw a ball, Justin ran a dig route, an 18 yard in route. I threw high on purpose, almost trying to overthrow him. He went off on one foot and plucked it out of the air. We all kind of looked around like, ‘wow, that was pretty special.’”
Or plays like this one, Hunter tracking and hauling in this deep pass down the right sideline during camp.
When the franchise QB endorses a guy, it’s hard to ignore. So Hunter won out and hopefully those traits – and better QB play – produce a career year if called upon.