The fact that we live in a society in which everybody gets to vocalize their opinion [relatively] freely can be a beautiful or horrifying thing. Sometimes at the same time. Like when a conversation erupts over which of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ three backup quarterbacks should make the roster this season.
No matter which player it is on the roster, you are bound to find mixed reviews if you look hard enough. There are big fans out there of sixth-year wide receiver Justin Hunter. It sounds as though you can count Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger among them, the way those two have been talking about the 6’4” target all offseason.
After Saturday night’s victory over the Tennessee Titans, in which Roethlisberger connected with Hunter for a 32-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner in a 16-6 game, the quarterback spoke highly of him in his second season with the team.
“I expect big things, like we saw”, he said about Hunter heading into the season. He talked about the receiver’s mental resilience in being able to come back from making a mistake and move on to focus on the rest of the game.
“There was a little thing early on the second play where we would’ve had an 80-yard touchdown”, he said, “and so for him to bounce back from that and make a play down the sideline for a touchdown to me shows resolve and shows he’s a guy that can put it behind him and move on”.
While this is pretty universally the case, Roethlisberger added, “I want him to know that I’ve got confidence in him no matter what”. The veteran quarterback has seemingly never been hesitant to throw to anybody, whether it was Derek Moye or David Paulson or Dri Archer. And if they dropped a pass, he would often go right back to them at the next opportunity.
With the trade of Martavis Bryant, the injury to Eli Rogers, and the team’s reluctance to promote rookie James Washington, Hunter has received extensive work with the first-team offense going all the way back to OTAs in May.
He has played early, though not often, in each of the first three preseason games as well, working with the starting group. It is unclear whether or not he will be considered the number three receiver by the time the regular season opener rolls along or if the coaching staff will have awarded it to Washington by then.