The Pittsburgh Steelers have, perhaps inarguably, been the most successful team in the league over the course of the past decade, or even the past two decades, in terms of acquiring and developing talent at the wide receiver position.
You can go all the way back to Hines Ward in the late 90s, then Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle El, Nate Washington, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, and, most recently, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not all of those players have been golden—Wheaton and Coates sticking out—but the hit ratio has been exceptional.
And they’re hoping that the hits keep coming with 2018 second-round pick James Washington. Because their future success kind of depends on it, after they traded Bryant. Brown, Smith-Schuster, and Washington are expected to be their starting three wide receivers in 2018, one being a rookie and another just a second-year player who is still 21.
Still, even with much of the group being as much potential as proven production, the Steelers do tend to get the benefit of the doubt, and deservedly so, so I think that Bucky Brooks’ ranking of Pittsburgh’s wide receivers group as the third-best in the league was pretty fair.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a team that can rival the Steelers’ success drafting and developing marquee receivers”, he wrote. “Antonio Brown is arguably the best receiver in football, despite having entered the league as an unheralded sixth-round pick. Brown not only has six 1,000-yard seasons in his eight-year career, but he has 59 career touchdown catches, with 52 coming in just the past five seasons”.
“Despite facing double-teams or bracket coverage at most times, Brown is nearly impossible to slow down or contain on the outside”, the NFL analyst continued with the All-Pro before moving on.
“With JuJu Smith-Schuster flashing all-star potential as a young starter, the Steelers boast one of the league’s best 1-2 punches. If second-round James Washington lives up to his big-play reputation as a rookie, it is possible the Steelers might be underrated on this VIP list of pass-catching units”.
The top two spots on the list were claimed by the Minnesota Vikings, who boast a very impressive pair of receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and the Atlanta Falcons, who have of course Julio Jones, but also Mohamed Sanu. They just drafted Calvin Ridley in the first round to boot.
Brooks’ entry about the Kansas City Chiefs included tight end Travis Kelce, so he was obviously not just talking about wide receivers. He also placed the Cleveland Browns at number five, mentioning David Njoku there.