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Jan 13

State of the Steelers: Wide Receiver

ScreenShot2013-09-22at7.52.17PM_crop_northSteeler Nation loves to hate on Mike Wallace, but we all owe him a huge thank you.

In the summer of 2012, Mike Wallace turned down a 5 year, 42 million dollar contract extension, which the Steelers then offered to Antonio Brown.

If Mike Wallace had signed that extension, Antonio Brown would be lighting it up in another city.

…and Mike Wallace would be in Pittsburgh making us pull out our hair due to drops.

Antonio Brown was the most consistent receiver in the NFL this season, and despite his lack of size, is a dangerous #1 option in the passing game.

After that… It gets a little bit rough.

Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are both set to hit unrestricted free agency. I feel very confident in saying Sanders leaves, and Cotchery returns.

It seems like a decade ago that Sanders was drafted a full 3 rounds before teammate Antonio Brown, and appeared to be the better receiver in training camp.

Coach Tomlin loudly told anyone within earshot that Sanders and Brown were competing for one hat on game day. I’d say that competition is over.

Cotchery lead the team in touchdowns this season with 10 and became Ben’s most reliable target when Antonio Brown saw more attention from defenses.

Cotch has already said that at this point he just wants a ring, and he thinks he can get one in Pittsburgh. That tells me he’s not going to make any outrageous contract demands, so I can’t see him going anywhere.

At his age though, Cotchery is probably a 3rd option at best… Which means there’s a hole at the #2 spot.

Second year man Markus Wheaton didn’t see the field much as a rookie. I mentioned several times I wish he’d play more over the disappointing Sanders. However, the fact that he didn’t probably means he wasn’t showing it in practice.

I still have a lot of faith in Wheaton, and think he could end up being the Steelers’ best pick in the 2013 draft. At this point though, it’s hard to count on that.

For that reason, wide receiver has to be in play as early as round 1 in the 2014 draft. I personally would be on cloud 9 if the Steelers came away with Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, or Kelvin Benjamin at the 15th spot in round 1.

Watkins’ performance in the Orange Bowl probably put him out of reach for the Steelers. However, Big Ben has openly admitted since Plaxico Burress (who I don’t expect to be re-signed this off-season) left that he’s ached for a big receiver.

They don’t come much bigger than the 6’5″ 225 lbs. Evans and 6’5″ 235 lbs. Benjamin.

If not in the first round though, this is a pretty deep draft at the position, with some talented guys like Allen Robinson and Odell Beckham Jr. in the second round.

I also mentioned in an earlier write-up that the WR position is very deep this year in free agency… With several options the Steelers could look at without breaking the bank.

To round out the depth chart, you’ll likely see the same names as last season including Derrick Moye, Justin Brown, and J.D. Woods. One of those guys probably makes it based on their special teams contributions in pre-season.

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17 comments

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  1. A Knowledgeable Fan

    In Wallace’s last season with the Steelers there were 26 receivers with more drops. This whole “Wallace drops” thing has been widely overblown by Steelers fans.

    You should know better & your readers deserve better!

    1. steelbydesign

      First of all the point is we’d be much worse off with Wallace than Brown. Do you disagree?

      Second of all, Wallace’s play drastically dropped off in his last season in Pittsburgh and has been since then. That’s fact. Mike caught 64% of his tagets in 2011, and 54% of his targets in 2012. That’s a VERY significant drop.

      Also, not all drop numbers are the same. Wallace doesn’t see the targets of possession receiver. When he gets behind a defense and is wide open he has to bring that in… Otherwise what’s he good for? You pay Wallace to make that big play when he has the chance.

      Pro Football Focus released a report at the mid-point of 2013 with what they call drop rate stats. At that point Antonio Brown dropped 1 catchable ball on 57 catchable targets… And Wallace had dropped 7 on 37 targets.

  2. Vittorio

    Steelbydesgin has a point to his article and it’s this: Other than Brown who else do they have. I never liked Wheaton from the moment he was taken. I here all these reports that guys like Brown and Moye are showing the team something in practice. That’s practice where there is no pressure if you screw up. If people think that a WR core of AB, Wheaton, Moye and Brown is acceptable then the fans of the Steelers are either high on something or just flat out crazy and foolish. I say go WR in the 1st round and go from there. I know the Defense has holes that need to be fixed but let’s be honest there is not 1 defensive player in the entire draft that will see significant playing time in the rookie year. Yet for some reason you the fans think that LeBeau will change his stance on rookies playing then you obviously have no idea what you are talking about. I guarantee you if the ignore WR again in the 1st round it shows they refuse to give Ben any help at the WR position instead they will give him sorry excuse WR’s instead of taking a top talented WR.

  3. bob graff

    This draft is just loaded with WR’s . Odell Beckham LSU would be a great 2 nd or 3rd round pick.

  4. Vittorio

    What a joke that is. Beckham is a younger version of Cotchery. You are like the rest of the fans out there and ART II. You are all scared that the Steelers will take WR before Defense. I have said over and over again that I know there are holes on D I admit to that but the fact remains unless that DT, DE or CB would start from day 1 there is no point in taking one of those guys in the 1st round. I mean you all think I’m ignoring the needs on D I’m not ignoring them and I hope you all understand that. I will stick to the belief that WR is the best way to go in the 1st round. There are 3 possibilities at that spot and after that well lets just say it’s hit and miss for the rest of those WR prospects. Tell me something people name me 5 Defensive players in this draft that Dick LeBeau will say “Yeah I’ll start this guy from the moment he steps out onto the field”. Name me those guys? I would really like to know?

    1. steelbydesign

      Man… You’re awfully quick to shoot down others’ opinions. Aren’t you the same guy that just posted like a week ago saying there was NO WAY Kelvin Benjamin was declaring?

    2. bob graff

      Wouldn’t getting a young Cotchery be good????? What’s your point.Plus this guy can return kicks.BTW i’m not scared at all . I think just like everyone else that the Steelers have a bunch of work to do i’m just giving an opinion.

  5. Vittorio

    Okay I admit I was wrong about Benjamin I’ll 100% admit I was wrong on that account. Same here bob graff. I don’t shoot it down per say it’s that how can expect LeBeau to change his mind on playing rookies for the Defense when it’s blatantly clear that he won’t do it. I go with WR for this very strong reason: Why should I trust Wheaton, Moye and Justin Brown when it was clear they won’t get the same chance other did/? You can say was hurt for most of the season and I will give you that. But what about the other times he was not hurt, he was in the lineup and the coaching staff really did not want to play him and don’t even mention guys like Holmes and Wallace cause if you check there rookie stats they did more impress the coaches than these 3 guys put together and yeah yeah I know AB only had 16 catches his rookie year but at least he made a couple of big plays when it mattered. So again I repeat why wait until the mid rounds to grab a WR you never use and waste his rookie year on when you can have a guy in the 1st round who will play and make an impact for the benefit of Ben and this offense.

  6. bob graff

    Ok i commented on this topic a couple days ago and decided to do some homework. What i came up with was this. A possible diamond in the rough Jared Abbrederis , this kid has all the stuff to be a great NFL WR.

    1. steelbydesign

      Hey Bob,
      I’ve seen a little bit of Abbrederis. His size, and technique in route running are nice. If he were there in the 4th or later I’d be okay with it.

      The only thing that scares me is he reminds me a lot of Limas Sweed. Both had issues with drops, and I’ve read in a few places Abbrederis gets frustrated when DB’s are physical with him and tends to back down. Sweed had all the tools to be a stud and just didn’t have the mental toughness to stick around.

  7. Vittorio

    Do you remember Nick Toon WR out of Wisconsin and the guy is on the Saints roster yet they use Kenny Stills more than Toon so how could Abbrederis be the diamond in the rough when the school is known more for the RB’s than WR’s. Everybody but me has the same mindset that Kelvin Benjamin or Allen Robinson will be there in the 2nd round when the Steelers pick again well my question is this: Do you really feel that those guys will be there or are you just hoping they will be there and that the Steelers will take either one of those 2 guys? I have seen a number of mock drafts and the way they set it up it’s more likely that either Lee or Evans will be there or even Watkins at 15. There are teams in the 2nd round that would take guys like Benjamin or Robinson and use them more as there No.1 more than a No.2 WR. Teams like the Jags, Browns, and Raiders are teams that would take a Allen Robinson or a Kelvin Benjamin and play as there No.1 WR opposite of guys like Gordon and Shorts III.

  8. STEELCAN

    If the Steelers really want that “big bodied reciever” in the first round, I think they should go with TE Ebron for a couple reasons: 1 Hes your heir apparent to Miller, (whose starting to get up there in age). Plus Ebron would give the Steelers a dimension at TE they never had even when Heath was in his prime (a serious down the field threat). 2 This years crop of WRs is super deep, (including BIG ones) I coulbd easily see 18-20 going in the first 4 rounds. I think the Steelers could find there guy in round 3 (comp pick) or round 4, good luck finding a TE of Ebrons ilk in that range. Oh and Vittorio, you need to “chill”.

  9. Vittorio

    I just do not get it. What is everybody’s obsession with guys like Ebron, Amaro and Sefarian Jenkins. This team will not become like Cincy ,NE and the Ravens. I believe in 1 receiving TE and not 2. By running that kind of offense your basically saying I have no WR’s that I can throw to or trust. Give me WR before TE in the 1st round. Miller may be up there in age a little bit but a replacement has everybody gone haywire. I will yell at this team if they go TE in the 1st round. There is only 2 options in the 1st round and they are: Watkins, Evans and Lee. Other than those 3 guys there is nobody out there in that draft class I would even consider for this team.

    1. steelbydesign

      Nobody is obsessed with anything… It’s just discussion, and varying opinions.

  10. STEELCAN

    Thank you “STEELBYDESIGN”, I am not saying they “HAVE TO” draft Ebron (or even Amaro) in the first round, Im just looking at where the depth of this draft is relative to the Steelers needs. Look, the Steelers probably have about 5 to 7 need areas right now (of varying degrees) and to try to fill them all in 1 draft is highly unlikely. So I think when it comes to Wr, they should wait until the 3rd (comp pick) or 4th round, in the first I would do with someone like: DE Hageman /CB Gilbet or TE Ebron. I feel that there will be a bigger drop of in talent relative to the 3 players mentioned, than at the WR position.

    1. steelbydesign

      I won’t say it’s a good thing when you have as many holes as the Steelers do, but it does make the draft process a little more flexible.

      In year’s past we might pass on a great value because it was a position we were set at. Now you can really just sit back and see who drops. Last year there was only a handful of guys that really got me excited, this year there’s about 12 I’d be very happy with.

  11. Vittorio

    Unless that defensive player will start for LeBeau then the fans will see that guy and complain again and again that he is not playing. I stand by what I have said from the very beginning: WR is the right choice in the 1st round. Why would the Steelers give Wheaton a shot when he never had one to begin with. Oh and don’t say well give him a pass he was hurt most of the time cause that is an excuse. What about the other times? What about when he was healthy and in the lineup? did they use him over Sanders: No they felt Sanders was a better choice and for once I think they made the right the choice in that matter. Ben has given been given a bunch of late round or FA WR’s that are basically worthless other than AB. Why wait until the 3rd round for a WR when after the top 3 it’s a big drop off. You can try and tell me otherwise but I don’t see it. Benjamin- case of dropsies, raw route runner, not always a high motor. Robinson is another Boldin and why should the have that. Evans may be another Boldin but I see it differently. I see Evans as more of a playmaker than a Physical WR. I have looked up and down the entire WR draft class a number of times and I just do not see anybody that will make an impact once the top 3 are off the board. There is a very good chance that at least 2 of 3 top WR’s will be there at 15 and you want them to bypass that for a guy who would more likely have to wait at least 2-3 years before starting. I have said before that I know there are holes on D I admit that but why pass up on a WR who will make more a of a difference in his rookie year in favor of DT or CB. Ex. Holmes had a good rookie year and he was a 1st round pick. So why pass up WR in the 1st round so that they pick up a guy who may or may not make an impact in the later rounds?

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