In the table below I wanted to get a better look at the Steelers wide receivers by down in relation to their targets, yards per target, catch percentage and first down production during the regular season. I left out the Arnaz Battle and his two targets because they just don\’t matter. If you are curious, both were incomplete.
Not that it needs reinforcing, but the numbers that Mike Wallace put up are staggering no matter how you slice them up. The 61% completion rate and the 21 yards per catch is pretty mind boggling considering that 43% of the balls thrown to him were of the deep variety. Also, 48 of his 60 catches produced a first down or a touchdown which is also almost half of the times he was targeted. Pretty astonishing numbers like I said.
Next up is twinkle toes Hines Ward. No matter what down it was in 2010, Ward was right around the 8 yards per target number and had a completion percentage of 63%. Both of these stats still keep him in good company of some of the best receivers in the league. Ward will by no means blow by anyone, but he remains very productive in the Steelers offense as a possession receiver who makes his catches count, especially on 3rd downs and in the red zone.
Rookie Emmanuel Sanders is well on his way to being the heir apparent to Ward as a possession receiver in the Steelers offense. His yards per catch was around a half a yard higher than Ward\’s was, but his yards per target was around a half a yard worse. These two stats really balance out based on the times targeted compared to Ward in my opinion. Although targeted just 18 times on 3rd down in 2010, Sanders had some great numbers on that down as 9 of his 10 catches produced first downs with a yards per target number of nearly 10. It is quite obvious that his production should go up in 2011 as he is primed to get much more playing time in 2011, especially on 3rd downs. Another thing not shown in the stat sheet is his ability to block. You can tell he has learned from the master, Ward, and takes that part of his game serious. He is easily the second best blocking wide receiver the Steelers have right now.
Although he was slowly loosing playing time to Sanders as the season wore on, Antwaan Randle El was pretty productive all things considered. His total numbers mirror that of Sanders. Sanders is however much quicker off the line than El was and could get separated a bit easier from his defender than El could in short spaces last year.
Last is rookie Antonio Brown who was targeted just 19 times during the regular season in his limited playing time. He did however catch 16 of 19 balls thrown his way and 4 of his 5 third down catches produced first downs. Not showing in these stats is the amazing playoff catch against the Ravens on 3rd and 19 with about 2 minutes left in the game that set up the game winning touchdown.
In closing, the play of Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball to these receivers can not be understated in all of these stats. Although the arrow for Sanders is definitely pointing up as he heads into his sophomore season, there is no need to rush Ward off the field just yet, especially on early downs. You will most likely see Sanders spell Ward more often in 2011 in an effort to keep Ward fresh for later in the season and hopefully another deep run in the playoffs. It is yet to be seen if El will be retained, but you could do worse for a guy who can come off the bench and serve as a 3rd receiver. Brown still has a lot to learn as far as recognition goes, but he certainly has the tool set and can stretch the field when needed. It is not out of the question that the Steelers draft yet another possession type receiver in the 2011 draft, but they are certainly in good hands, baring injury, if they wait until 2012 to do so. These groups of receivers, when coupled with Roethlisberger, rival any receiving group right now in the NFL. Stats sometimes lie, but not in this case.
|Antwaan Randle El|