Pre-Draft Free Agent Movements: Wide Receiver

The vast bulk of the offseason roster moves to be made before the draft are already completed, so now is a good time to start taking a look at how the month of March (and the early portions of April) have affected the depth chart.

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with 21 unrestricted free agents. They retained many of them, but also lost a few that they likely wished to keep, and were forced to replace them from outside the organization. The Steelers also released a few players, in addition to signing half a dozen (and counting) players from other teams.

The next position we will take a look at is wide receiver, and the offseason gains and losses there that the team has experienced.




Lance Moore: The signing of Lance Moore only went in motion after the Steelers realized that they were at serious risk of losing Jerricho Cotchery to the Carolina Panthers, which is what ended up happening.

Moore is being brought in as a veteran slot receiver, and he has an accomplished history of doing just that, as we’ve previously looked examined. The quicker he gets acclimated to the offense, the better off they’ll be.

Darrius Heyward-Bey: The decision to bring in Darrius Heyward-Bey was predicated entirely on its low risk nature. Should he fail to make the roster, which is a very real possibility, the Steelers will only endure a $65,000 cap hit.

On the up side, he’s tall and fast and is a consistent threat for a big play, even if he chronically drops the football. If he ends up as the fourth or fifth receiver for this team, that should be considered a good thing.


Emmanuel Sanders: Emmanuel Sanders cashed in in free agency after his best professional season, catching six touchdowns last year with the Steelers. Still, they knew he was going to be out of their range anyway, and they weren’t comfortable with his performance as a starter anyway. It’s difficult to keep a demoted starter around, and that’s clearly where things were headed.

Jerricho Cotchery: Jerricho Cotchery is the one that got away. He had to make a choice between Pittsburgh or Carolina, and he chose the latter. They offered at least $1 million more than what the Steelers likely could afford, if not $2 million based on Moore’s contract. While he was a strong locker room presence, and his blocking was an asset, the market wasn’t right to bring him back and they were forced to move on.

Remaining Free Agents:

Plaxico Burress: The Steelers re-signed Plaxico Burress immediately in free agency last year, but he injured his shoulder during training camp. Even then, he was at serious risk of not making the roster anyway over Derek Moye and Justin Brown. There’s no reason to assume they’ll be signing him again.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • blackandgoldBullion

    One stat that convince everyone that a tall WR would be great. I know we are spoiled because AB plays for the Steelers, but look around the NFL and the way the game has changed just recently. I truly believe that they are worried about too many games with 800-1000 yards passing. Why? Well, the rules obviously changed in favor of offense over the years. But just in the last year or 2 they seem to be letting the CB’s get away with a lot more contact, which in my eyes is actually Pass Interference. Just watch the Seahawks and you will see it on almost every pass.

    With this new evolution what can you do next? It’s always wise to have a variety of players, fast, tall, wide bodied tough guys for different situations and teams. I know everybody says that you don’t need a tall WR to win the Super Bowl. Fine, and the Steelers D is nowhere near where they want to be, but given time they will get there.

    Ok, so here’s the stat: 6 of the top 7 WR’s just last year were at least 6’3″! AB being the only exception in that group. Why? Because the refs are letting the CB’s get away with a little more contact especially when the ball arrives. Think about the smaller guy that gets hit just before the ball arrives and his upper body moves enough that he can’t make the catch. He looks around and there’s no flag. That happens a lot more often now.

    Think about the guy with the solid upper body that gets hit just before the ball arrives, but is still able to make that tough catch. Think Boldin type catches. And there’s a big difference. Heath makes these catches and if the Steelers had another buy who could make those type of catches it would benefit greatly on 3rd downs and in the red zone. Now imagine how this could help open up the field for either AB or a RB coming out of the backfield.

    Conclusion: He doesn’t necessarily have to be 6’3″, but a big WR that has the potential to be a #2 WR or dare I say a hybrid TE would greatly benefit the Steelers Offense. There might even be guys available in the 3rd or 4th that could develop and my qualify. But I definitely want one.

  • John

    Well said. Our red zone offense is less than stellar because we lack the big receiver threat. I actually think it is even more important than any numbers show because the absence inhibits the confidence of our offense and gives the defense extra confidence. Do not forget Cotchery became our default red zone guy and we lost him. We need to draft Benjamin. Look at the Boldin and Pitta catches in the Ravens Super Bowl run. They made Flacco look terrific because all he had to do was float the ball up in their direction. Guys like Benjamin do not come along very often. It could be another five years before there is another. He helped his college QB big time this past year.

  • steeltown

    We all pretty much knew Sanders was gone and that we would look to Wheaton and the draft for the future of the position, but the Cotchery situation came as a bit of a surprise. I like what was done though, bringing in Moore for experienced depth and the low risk Heyward-Bey, all of this with the same mentality of moving Wheaton up the depth chart and targeting WR early in the draft