The loss of Antonio Brown will necessarily radically change the dynamic of the wide receiver position for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Any team that has him on their roster is guaranteed to have one of the best wide receiver rooms in the NFL, just because of his own talent alone—he’s that good.
Now that he’s not in that room anymore, it’s fair to question if the Steelers even have the best group of wide receivers in the division, and I think there is at least one team who is currently better, provided that they can be healthy, that being the Cincinnati Bengals.
Obviously, it starts at the top with A.J. Green, who before his season-ending injury toward the middle of the season had made the Pro Bowl every year since he was drafted with the fourth-overall pick in 2011. Green, who also seems to have a Pro Bowl attitude, is a clear difference-maker.
And assuming that he bounces back to full health, new head coach Zac Taylor should be able to get a lot more out of him than the defense-oriented Marvin Lewis could. Plus with the emergence of Tyler Boyd as a legitimate number two last season, the Bengals have a clear complement that the Steelers lack right now.
Taylor will also be tasked with getting 2017 first-rounder John Ross on track. He did catch seven touchdowns last year, but he caught just 21 passes for 210 yards. The guy who ran the fastest 40 time in Combine history averaged 10 yards per catch. The group is rounded out by Cody Core, Auden Tate, Alex Erickson, and Josh Malone.
The Cleveland Browns could try to give the Steelers a run for their money as the number two group as well, led by Jarvis Jones, and of course they’re also in better position to reload this offseason. Antonio Callaway had a solid rookie season, and Rashard Higgins also had a career year.
Former Baltimore Ravens first-rounder Breshad Perriman proved to be an asset late in the year, and they’re still working to re-sign him. if they are able to do that, it would round out the group pretty well before they make any additions.
It’s easy to see that the Ravens, however, have the worst wide receiver group not just in the division, but perhaps even in the NFL. Right now their number one receiver is Willie Snead, who plays in the slot. They already released Michael Crabtree and John Brown is set to hit free agency.
Chris Moore is heading into his third season, but wasn’t a big contributor. They drafted to mid- to late-rounders last year who are still around as well.
The thing with the Ravens, of course, is that they’re building an offense around the running game right now, which is why they just gave a blocking tight end $6 million per season. Their offense is less dependent on the passing game than any other team in the division, and perhaps less than any other team in the league.