The Pessimist’s Take – Drafting The Tall Wide Receiver

For a team facing so much adversity in the past season and heading into the next with a litany of questions to address, it’s natural to consider the issues and how they can either go right or wrong, as well as how they will affect  the broader dynamics and future success of the team, both heading into this season and into the future.

Though not statistically true, it is technically true that every team enters the offseason with the potential to finish the year as the league champion or as the first team on the clock in the next draft.

Some teams have a wider realistic range than others, and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those teams. Think of them as Schrödinger’s franchise; in February, they are both future champions and future owners of the top draft pick.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.

Question: Should the Steelers draft a tall receiver, and what impact could he have on the offense?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been lobbying for a tall receiver more or less since Plaxico Burress left in free agency after the quarterback’s rookie season. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this offseason, the organization has every intention to get Roethlisberger that tall receiver in the early rounds of the upcoming draft, and told him so.

When you have a franchise quarterback, it’s generally a good idea to surround him with the weapons necessary to succeed. It’s also a good practice to accommodate him within reason when at all possible, such as getting him a tall receiver.

But would it be a mistake to deliberately go into the draft looking for a specific type of player at a specific position?

In the process, the Steelers run the risk of getting tunnel vision and not taking the best player available when it’s their turn to pick, reaching in order to make good on their word, which could be a detriment to the team in the long run.

Roethlisberger may want a tall receiver, but does giving your quarterback the body type he wants to throw to guarantee championships? Of course not. Did Demaryius Thomas win the Super Bowl for Peyton Manning? How many playoff games have Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green combined to win? Zero. Not even Larry Fitzgerald’s legendary playoff run could hold up in the end.

A tall wide receiver provides the quarterback with very specific advantages in very specific game situations. If a defense really wants to plan around and take away that option, it’s more than possible. We’ve seen shutdown corners take out all types of players for entire games. Ike Taylor has done this himself.

Quite simply, being taller doesn’t make you a better wide receiver because it doesn’t make you a better football player. If anything, it has the potential to create stagnation for players who have been able to excel through the college ranks simply by taking advantage of their superior physical attributes. This is partly why Randy Moss never earned a Super Bowl ring.

It takes more than that in the NFL, and isolating height as a determining factor in this upcoming draft when looking for the next wide receiver to add to the roster would be a crucial mistake for the Steelers, especially when taking into consideration the depth available at the position throughout the rest of the draft.

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

    This would be ‘nice to’ have for sure! I don’t think the player has to be a WR though. Jimmy Graham and Gronk provide the same size advantage for their respective teams.

    With Miller at the end of a great career, maybe this is the time to get the next TE (with size and who can catch well).

  • Chad H

    Great article. I will take 10 ABs over one troubled tall WR.

  • steeltown

    Nice article

  • 804Stiller

    I agree with this article 100%. I’d rather get a defensive playmaker at an area of need(CB/ILB/S) with pick 15 if the value is there. It would be nice to get a big receiver but I just don’t see where these big receivers equate to wins. Historically, I don’t see where these big receivers have been difference makers on championship teams. Plus, I think we have done well at developing receivers in later rounds.

  • Axe Skot

    Absolutely. Best player, if he is a tall receiver, great, otherwise…

  • shawn

    Dont always agree with BPA … like BPA that fits System and Needs

  • shawn

    I think you are correct .. it doesnt necessarily need to be a WR but we definitely need another RZ threat and it could be either a TE or WR …

    Actually we are going to need 2 TE’s over the next couple years … ( one traditional TE to replace Heath and one to Split out to create mismatches and provide RZ help) so we might as well get one of them now !

  • RedCarpetDefense

    I will gladly take a Cris Carter type WR any day. A guy who just makes plays and who “only catches touchdowns”.

  • DoctorNoah

    Eric Ebron = Tall Wide Receiver.
    (yes, I am totally a broken record here)

  • Matt Manzo

    Seems a little different this year with the few big WRs that posted 4.4 speeds. There’s a few that aren’t just possession receivers or redzone. We’ve got a chance to get a Big and Fast and Athletic receiver; Matthews/Bryant.
    I’d like to see one in rounds 2 or 3 but it depends on who’s there at 15 and if they can or want to trade down?
    I like the “optimist” article better!

  • pete c

    Randy Moss was arguably the best WR to ever play, played in 4 Championship games & 2 SBs. To say because he’s tall he didn’t win a SB is hilarious. Football is the ultimate team sport & you need a supporting cast. He’s far from the reason he never won one. Heck, in the top 10 WR’s of all time, only Rice being drafted to a team that just won a SB is the only one. Any team can use a 6’4″ receiver with talent.

  • Patrick Reid

    First 3 I would love to go Gilbert/Dennard, Jenkins and T Brooks. Jenkins has kinda fallen off the grid because of passing of injury. He’s still IMO the 2nd best TE not named Colt(who we won’t touch). He’s the big receiver RZ threat we need who can also stretch the field. Would love to pair him with Heath.

  • Patrick Reid

    Great points Pete!.

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m torn on TE. I think we need one but I think the FO thinks Heath can play for a few more years.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Now that some of the dust is beginning to settle I’d love to see us get a “little” creative in free agency. I’ve always been a fan of WR Dane Sanzenbacher out of the Buckeye Nation who currently sits as a RFA on the Cincy roster. Signing a young talented prospect away from a divisional rival might be fun for once. Lord knows others pick our pockets enough. This might also allow Colbert to focus more on the D where we still need help despite all of the recent re-signings. Maybe I’m way off base (yes I’m mixing sports metaphors) but I’ve seen Dane play and the kid can climb.