When the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Latrobe for training camp in late July, they will perhaps have their most talented group of wide receivers in decades from top to bottom. On one side, Antonio Brown who has proven to be the league’s best wide receiver was rewarded over the offseason with a big contract from the team. On the other, Martavis Bryant who missed the entire 2016 season due to a suspension has added ten pounds and looks even better than last time we seen him. The talent does not stop there. The team has recently added JuJu Smith-Schuster in the draft back in April. A big bodied guy who can work the middle of the field. A case can be made that these three men will be safe when it comes to making the 53-man roster in September. After that, it would appear to be “fair game.”
The remaining receivers on the roster are: Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Demarcus Ayers, Canaan Severin, and Marcus Tucker. The questions that remained to be answered are how many receivers will the Steelers keep? Also, which of these guys have the most upside and can be called upon no matter what the scenario may be? Let the competition begin.
Coates is another big bodied receiver option for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who possesses that deep threat option. Prior to a hand injury in week five last season, Coates was one of the best deep threats in the league. Through five games, Coates averaged 25.92 yards per catch on nineteen receptions. After his injury, Coates made just two catches for the rest of the season and left Roethlisberger without a big body to throw to.
Rogers was the second most productive from the wide receivers last season. His forty-eight receptions for 594 yards and three touchdowns gave the offense some spark from primarily the slot. However, last year’s production will not be good enough if he wants to remain on the roster in 2017. The Steelers suffered real problems behind Antonio Brown last season in the passing game, primarily in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. Rogers had a real chance to step up but failed to do so.
Hamilton is one that most have not given much of a shot, has gotten use to having the odds against him. He did not join the team until August of 2016 after being released by the Panthers, Dolphins, and Bengals prior to joining the Steelers. Closed out the Steelers regular season with a game winning touchdown catch against the Cleveland Browns in overtime. Hamilton also had a thirty yard touchdown in the AFC Championship game after the game was basically decided.
Heyward-Bey is a player who is not known as much for his production on the offensive side of the ball, but gets praise for what he is willing to do on special teams. However, with this group of guys, that will most likely not be enough to make the 53-man roster.
Hunter, like Heyward-Bey, is a former first round pick looking to make this team who once had a lot of upside. Entering his fifth season, the 6’4″ receiver could perhaps be a redzone threat. The way to the roster could be quite steep.
Ayers has shown some upside with the little time we have seen him on the field. Another guy who can work out of the slot who may push Rogers for all he has. Ayers also has real potential returning punts. According to some reports, Ayers was quite productive during organized team activities.
As far as Severin and Tucker, they may be hoping to just get something nice on tape so that another team may give them a chance.
Until camp arrives, all one can do is speculate. The Steelers have done a great job in acquiring this talent and wide receivers coach Richard Mann, does a great job turning these men into productive players. Which player will open the most eyes? Who can play special teams? The anticipation is real!