Steelers WR Justin Brown Knows He Needs To Be Special This Year

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.

  • shawn

    I for one am rooting for him … and i have to disagree with the above sentiment of him being a long shot. He is a Big Possession type of WR that can move the chains and i feel would be the perfect fit to complement the rest of our receiving corps as the 5th WR.

    The way i look at it I would think he has a decent shot about 50/50 of making the team … some people are not as high on him but i think he provides good quality for a 5th WR !

    I dont think the speed will be an issue for him as he was never looked at or drafted for his speed !

  • dkoy85

    I agree. I was actually kind on surprised to see Moye make the 53 over Brown. The weekend I spent at Latrobe, it seemed to me Brown was the better player. Maybe speed was the x factor? I honestly went into that weekend wanting Moye to win it out because of his size, but left hoping Brown beat him out.

  • steeltown

    I think Moye is going to have trouble making the squad this year, he was never a big special teams contributor. In the end, it might come down to Heyward-Bey or J.Brown, both are said to be decent downfield blockers and both have some special teams ability. If DHB drops a few passes in preseason it will open the door for J.Brown

  • Toddy Bravo

    I agree with the comments below. I don’t think Brown is that long of a shot to make it. In fact, I feel he probably has the inside track over DHB and Moye. It was brought up in the other thread, but what may kill his chances would be if we actually keep 4 WRs plus Dri Archer as a 5th hybrid RB/WR.

    That said, I wonder if they consider keeping DHB to mentor Martavis. They really are very similar players. We all know DHB has issues catching the ball, but by all accounts he’s a very smart, high character guy, who blocks well and is a quick study. Those are attributes that would serve a guy like Martavis Bryant very well in this early stage of his career. For Bryant, I think just seeing how a professional like DHB prepares for a game would be beneficial.

  • shawn

    Ya … i feel Brown just has much more upside than Moye … I just dont see Moye making it !

  • RMSteeler

    Plenty of speed with the current outside receivers. Would like to see Brown make the final WR spot over Moye. Put Brown in the slot at 6’3 for a bigger receiver over the middle on short/intermediate routes. That’s IF he can provide a physical force with great blocking skills too. And IF he can contribute on ST’s, not as a gunner, but as a second wave guy, he’d provide more value than I’ve seen in Moye. Gunners usually over run the play. Second wave players who can wrap up returners slowed or diverted by the gunners are underrated. Brown’s most likely going to have to excel in at least three areas to make the roster. If not, back the the PS?

  • Steve

    Don’t see Brown or Moye making 53. Drafting Bryant and Archer and bringing in Moore pushed Moye and JBrown out unless there are injuries.

  • SteveM2

    Why? Derek Moye performed better in the 2013 pre-season games, even running down what would looked to be a sure pick-six following an interception.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I understand his mindset but do not like it. He says that since he isn’t a starter he will shoot for a ST position on the team…isnt the goal to be a starter? He must not feel very high about his ability to settle.

  • Cody Turner

    Honestly I feel we bring Santonio Holmes back on a cheap deal and let him DHB, Moore, Justin Brown, Moye, Martavis Bryant, Wheaton all battle it out and let the play determine the seeding. Two 8-8 seasons you bring out the competition and the nasty back into camp. I think it shakes out 1. Antonio Brown 2. Lance Moore 3. Santonio Holmes 4. Marcus Wheaton 5. Martavis Bryant. If we keep six then i give the nod to DHB just because i think makes the avg wr look good just based on his style of play. I just think Holmes an Ben had great chemistry and what’s it hurt to bring him in camp and see what he got left. He is over the off field troubles and he certaintly is no worse than your 3rd best Wr based on talent plus he would be a true vet to an inexperienced core of wrs.

  • Scot Hickerson

    Brown has the potential to be a Anquan Boldin type possession receiver only he is taller and faster. Brown wasn’t a home run hitter for OU but he always got open enough and always made the catch in traffic mostly. I think if Brown is really good at special teams he could make it. But I would not be surprised if Heyward Bay was the odd man out if he doesn’t improve his pass catching ability. The team won’t need speed as much with Bryant, A Brown and Archer. but will need reliable hands.

  • shawn

    I think you are misreading him …. just think he realises that being a current starter isn’t realistic and wants to make the team anyhow he can which at this time is by being on STs … i dont think it has anything to do with his mindset on playing WR and his future performance !

  • Shannon Stephenson

    What your comment said is exactly how I understand it but it doesn’t change my thought of it.

  • walter mason

    Correct. He looked good in pre-season but he didnt carry that over into the regular season. I seem to remember him dropping balls at costly times.