Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers no longer have the services of Antonio Brown this season, they seem to have an abundance of talent at wide receiver, such that they have between seven and nine legitimate candidates at the position as they used the final two games of the preseason to settle upon a group—most likely of six—for the 53-man roster
There are at least four positions that are set in stone, though being JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and rookie third-round pick Diontae Johnson. A fifth spot is likely to be decided between Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer, with the loser competing with Johnny Holton, Tevin Jones, and Diontae Spencer for a sixth spot.
There seems to be some emerging support for Spencer to make it as the final wide receiver on the roster among fans—even I put him on my 53-man roster prediction after the second game—but that stems largely from what he can offer in the return game rather than as a wide receiver.
The CFL product has recorded three quality returns in terms of length between punts and kicks over the course of the first two games, including a 38-yard punt return in the second game. He also had a 19-yard end-around in that game, and a nice catch-and-run in the game before, though he also had a drop on third down and another target he was unable to secure in a contested situation.
“It’s just all about getting comfortable”, he told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the wake of that second preseason game. “I’m just excited, and once the game starts slowing down, I can put my best foot forward and keep making plays”.
He had previously said that he had a lot of emotions heading into the first preseason game, noting that it had taken him a long time to get to that point of experiencing his first game action in the NFL. Though he had success in the CFL, he understands this league is a different beast.
One of the reasons that he believed in himself is because he had a position coach who believed in him. He told Batko that the late Darryl Drake “would always tell me, ‘you belong in this league, and you’ve got to believe that’”.
Whether he believes it or not, however, it’s fair to say that he still has a lot of ground to cover this week in the final two preseason games if he hopes to push a veteran at the wide receiver position off the roster. returning a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown would certainly help. But he may also have to show he can make plays at wide receiver as well—without dropping them.