Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Justin Brown

By Matthew Marczi

It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.

That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.

Player: Justin Brown

Draft Status: 6th round (186th overall)

Snaps: 0

Starts: 0

If not for the emergence of Derek Moye—his former teammate at Penn State in college—Justin Brown likely would have made the 53-man roster, but instead he spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

Unlike Moye, Brown elected to transfer from Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, playing his senior season for Oklahoma and becoming a favored target of teammate and draft mate Landry Jones.

Moye won out in the battle for a tall receiver, a competition made easier when Plaxico Burress was lost for the season with an injury, but Brown, at 6’3”, offers plenty of height as well, and also has decent speed for his size.

It seemed that Brown would clearly be the choice to win the fifth receiver spot behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, and rookie Markus Wheaton following the first preseason game, during which he caught four of six passes targeted to him for 32 yards against the New York Giants.

After that, however, he caught just two of seven targets—though that was largely due to the quarterbacks throwing him the ball, including Jones, his former college teammate. The balls he was thrown offered very little chance for yards after the catch.

In the preseason finale, however, he slipped on a route that resulted in an interception and near-pick-six, which was only saved thanks to a hustle play by Moye to chase down the defender for the tackle.

Meanwhile, Moye had a very strong preseason, catching 10 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, adding seven missed tackles to the tune of 67 yards after the catch. Based on pure performance alone, Moye had to be the choice between the two.

That doesn’t mean that that can’t very easily flip-flop this year, but that will depend on how they perform. Because neither are notable special teams contributors, it’s unlikely that both would make the roster.

Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le’Veon Bell
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – S Shamarko Thomas
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – QB Landry Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – CB Terry Hawthorne

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    Moye was definitely more impressive last preseason, but I cant get over the fact that he doesn’t contribute on special teams. I think guys that are far down the depth chart have to contribute in some form or fashion. If J.Brown can contribute in that area he just might win that spot.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Just based on the production we got from Moye…I’m not expecting much from J. Brown unless he’s made a huge leap.

  • AndyR34

    I think that if Brown could contribute on ST…we would already know that. It appears his ST capabilities are as limited as Moye’s.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Thought J Brown was a punt returner in College. Wonder if he gets a shot to either return punts or kicks in the preseason?

  • steeltown

    Im not ready to say that. How would we know he was on the PS all year, Moye dressed for 7games and saw little to no snaps on special teams. I really think that will be the deciding factor, especially if Cotchery is retained and we draft another WR

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Supposedly, the kid can block, which helps his cause an awful lot. However he will have to show a lot better making tough catches in traffic, AND be able to contribute on special teams if he hopes to make the 53. I really hope he works his butt off and it works out for him, because it would obviously help the team.

    Wishful thinking? Let’s hope not. I am always thinking about best case scenarios, and these players need to realize that injuries happen and if they can help the team in several different ways, they help themselves as well.

  • dgh57

    I see upside to J. Brown as we took the effort to resign him to a futures contract (to give him a 2nd chance)so they must of seen something while being on the PS last season. There are things to like about him as he also put up solid numbers in his senior year at OU both as a WR, as a PR, and has good size we all been looking for in a WR.

  • dgh57

    He was a PR in College at OU and led his team in both the numbers of punts and PR yardage. I was looking forward to see what he could do last preseason in that area but for some reason he was never given the chance to prove himself. Hopefully he gets that chance this preseason!

  • PA2AK

    If I’m not mistaken, he made that impact at OU in spite of him transferring for that year after the PSU fallout. He’s done well with a lot of things to deal with and adapt to in short time. I hope he’s able to move up the ladder.

  • Douglas Andrews

    i hope they give him a shot who knows he might be pretty good at it. Also would be nice to have someone else besides A Brown returning punts.