Due to the fact that he spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Justin Brown was eligible to attend the rookie minicamp that took place this past weekend. Now, as he heads into his second season with the team, the Steelers 2013 sixth-round draft pick feels like he has a better grasp of things.
“It’s a lot different having that year under my belt, just knowing the system,” Brown said, according to to a Wednesday report by Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “My first year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Now, I’m more comfortable and I can just play.”
Even though the Steelers lost wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery via free agency during the offseason, the team signed free agents Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey to help fill those vacancies. In addition, Martavias Bryant was drafted in the fourth-round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
When you consider that Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton are both at the top of the wide receiver depth chart, there’s likely only one wide receiver spot on the Steelers 2014 53 man roster that’s up for grabs. If Brown is to claim that spot, he’ll likely have to beat out Heyward-Bey and Derek Moye for it.
While Moye did beat out Brown for a roster spot in 2013, he only dressed for seven games and thus only logged 53 snaps worth of playing time on offense. He wasn’t a big special teams contributor and that will be a must this season for whichever wide receiver grabs the fifth spot. Browns is well aware of that fact and Fittipaldo reports that the young receiver has worked with Steelers with special teams coach Danny Smith this spring.
“They say all the time if you’re not a starter you have to be on one of the special teams, so that’s what I’m shooting for,” Brown said per Fittipaldo’s report.
On Tuesday, I wrote about the long odds that Brown faces this season as it relates to his chances of making the Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp after not making it his rookie season. While Brown is “tall” (6-3), he’s not overly fast (4.60). Unless his long speed has improved, that could wind up hurting his chances this year.
Being as wide receivers at the bottom of depth charts that play on special teams are normally asked to cover punts as gunners if they aren’t return capable, this is were Brown will most likely have to make his mark during training camp in addition to him showing that he can be a reliable pass catcher. It’s a good thing that he’s worked with Smith this offseason, as he very well could have the final say on whether or not he makes the final 53 man roster.
Brown not only needs to be more comfortable this year, he needs to be extremely special.