Justin Brown Taking Nothing For Granted This Season

Justin Brown was a sixth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, a somewhat forgotten, unheralded second fiddle to a more promising receiver that the team also added that year in the third round of the NFL Draft.

So was Antonio Brown.

But unlike Antonio, Justin didn’t make it onto the 53-man roster on his first try. Justin spent his rookie season on the practice squad, while Antonio returned his first touch for a kick return touchdown, and helped polish off a 14-point comeback in the playoffs.

Also unlike Antonio, though, Justin has received significant attention in his second year during offseason workouts, including some work with the first-team offense when his former draft classmate, Markus Wheaton, sat out some drills.

Now, does that mean that Justin will slowly emerge as a starter by the end of his second season and rack up over 1000 yards, as Antonio did?

Of course not. Brown is battling right now at best to be the fourth option at wide receiver, noting that rookie Martavis Bryant would make the roster even if the Steelers chose to play Brown ahead of him due to experience.

But there’s no mistaking the added attention that Brown is receiving this offseason, due to the fact that he is meriting that attention with his play, of course.

As his production trailed off last summer, he ended up losing his roster battle to Derek Moye. So he’s grateful for the opportunity to work with the ones earlier this offseason.

“It is definitely good getting some reps with the ones”, he said. “When my number is called, I’m just trying make sure that I’m ready and I know what I’m doing. I’ve noticed [the attention], and it’s definitely encouraging”.

With all the attention that he’s been getting, from both coaches and the media—present company included—however, it may be difficult to forget that he’s realistically competing for a minor role that might see him inactive on game days.

Of course, it’s certainly not unrealistic for a former sixth-round pick to eventually break out and crack the starting lineup, even earn a nod on the All-Pro team. After all, he has a shining example in his own locker room, with the same name on the back of his jersey.

But Justin Brown understands that the first step in that journey is to crack the 53-man roster. The fact that he’s already on his second attempt has not been lost on him; he understands how much it will take to reach his goal, even if he knows he’s not there yet.

“I have been trying to better my game”, he said. “I’m trying to go hard every day and show the coaches that I have been working hard. But as I said, I still have a ways to go”.

That way may have to take him past his rival Moye, as well as a veteran free agent pickup in Darrius Heyward-Bey, but he has at least one significant cheerleader in his corner.

“Justin is doing some great things”, his quarterback said of him. “I just like that he keeps working to get better and every day you see improvement from him”. It will be important for Brown to continue to be on that upward trajectory once the preseason starts.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • dgh57

    I think JB has plenty of experience as a punt returner from his College days so if they take a look at him there also it may increase his odds at making the team. Whether it’s another year on the PS, or 5th WR it wouldn’t hurt to have a capable backup as a punt returner on your team somewhere in case of injury.

  • steeltown

    If he stays healthy, he might be hard to beat for that last spot. He sure seems to have put the work in and by all accounts its showing. Special Teams is key. Im rooting for him.

  • steeltown

    Side note: It’s encouraging all the good reports out there regarding J.Brown and L.Moore… especially Moore who it’s been said looks really solid so far and clicking with Ben in a short period of time. They will only get more comfortable as the season wears on

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I really liked Justin Brown; his draft stock was pretty unfair as Brown had to left PSU after the big scandal, he’s always been a baller in open field. If you asked me a year ago, would I bet Brown against Wheaton i’d have said yes.

    This isn’t to take anything away from Wheaton but… Justin Brown just is much as crafty as Antonio is with little less speed and along with Big Ben’s tendencies of scrambling, Justin make a better flanker in a no huddle offense. What does this leave Wheaton? Give him other year, he should take over Lance Moore’s role.

  • Weiss Chad

    Not only does this guy make the roster I think he ends up as fourth on depth chart behind moore

  • Chad H

    As long as someone beats out DHB I will be happy. If you can’t catch you can’t play. If DHB makes the final roster he will cost us a least one key game because of dropped balls.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I know they don’t do trades but this is a deep WR group and barring injury I would look to trade Moore if the younger guys continue to improve. I don’t question his ability but I think I would like the team better with Brown on the team and Moores money spent on someone else.

    I could see the DL developing the same way. Even if you didn’t get anything of value back in the trades, the money going to Moore and C. Thomas could be used for something significantly more valuable.

    I liked both signings at the time but getting Tuitt, and Bryant as well as Dri and DHB, along with Browns developments and everyones health turns them into luxuries. With our current cap space and with that money freed up we could afford a high end player that gets cut. If we could lock up a pro bowl caliber LT or CB in the next couple months we would be far better now and long term.

  • dgh57

    If we are deep at WR it’s only on paper. While I see upside in Wheaton and Bryant they have yet to prove much at the NFL level. 2014 will be a prove it year for both of those guys. Moore has better hands than DHB could ever dream about having and can play the slot therefore he needs to stay.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    If Moore and DHB are battling it out for the 5th WR spot I think that makes my point even stronger.

    The paper comment could be applied to Ben and Moore. The truth is that coaches see and know a lot more than fans ever do. We also have a preseason to play and get to see how things work. Moore is going to be a starting WR for at most one year. If Brown and Bryant show they are ready to contribute this year and Wheaton is ready to start how can you look at Moores value as being higher than whoever else you would give his money?

  • dkoy85

    Certainly is encouraging. In an interview with Ben on “The Cook and Poni Show” he specifically said he thinks the Oline and Justin Brown had a great camp. I’m anxious to see how JBrown competes in training camp. A year or two from now, on paper, a receiving corp or BB, Bryant, Wheaton, and JBrown doesn’t sound too shabby.

  • dgh57

    I see the 5th WR competition is between Moye, DHB, and J. Brown of whom I hope Brown wins out.

    Moore has value because he’s taking over for Cotch as our third down possession WR at the slot position. Every team needs one of those guys on their team.

  • steeltown

    You would trade Moore and have J.Brown, Heyward-Bey and the rookie behind the AB and Wheaton?

  • dkoy85

    Your point is only strong IF Moore were to be battling it out for the 5th spot. He’s a lock for 3rd, and possible 2nd WR. You do not trade him because we are “deep” at WR.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Every team needs a lot of things.

    The question is what things do they need more than others.

    I was simply making a point that other positions are bigger needs.

    Would you really prefer a crafty, slot WR to upgrading one of your starters?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Which rookie? The 3rd rounder or the 4th rounder?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I disagree that these numeric designations are enough to make a decision.

    If there is little to no difference between 3 and 5 who cares? How do you justify leaving a position of weakness because you decide to spend a few extra million to upgrade your number 4 WR for a year?

    How can you even make an argument without considering the other side of the equation anyway. Moore isn’t simply traded for DHB. We also upgrade one of our starters

  • dgh57

    We all saw the value Cotch provided as our third down possession WR and I don’t care to think what it would’ve been like without him.

    We have needs at CB, OLB, and at OT but at the same time you can’t fill all the needs in one off season.

  • dkoy85

    I see what you mean, but if you trade Moore then behind Brown there is absolutely 0 experience other than DHB, and Moore is a serious upgrade over DHB. It does not make sense to trade Moore no matter which way you look at it. Maybe next year if Wheaton and Bryant/Jbrown show they have what it takes.

    Your argument that WR is not a weakness is invalid, because it is unproven. Take away Moore and it is even more unproven. Moore is a very important piece to our offense.

  • steeltown

    Im not counting Dri Archer, he is technically the 3rd RB and hopefully KR (as well as WR) I don’t think him making the Team will have an affect on the WR #s

    The L.Moore contract isn’t breaking the bank and I personally would much rather have Moore than DHB, saying that, I do hope J.Brown makes the 53man but not at the expense of Moore but at the expense of someone like DHB

  • Eric MacLaurin

    What happens if Ike or Beacham get injured?

    I would much rather deal with a skilled but inexperienced WR than have to sign a street free agent to replace one of those guys. We got lucky when Pouncey went down but it still took long enough to recover that we lost the season.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Dri is going to get WR snaps. that other stuff doesn’t matter.

    again. you will never buy anything that is worth the price if you don’t consider what you are buying. If we trade Moore we get something I want and that is the ONLY reason it would make sense.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Cotch did well because we didn’t have anyone else. He wouldn’t repeat if he was here.

    We don’t have to fill all of our weaknesses to justify action. Trading a 4th or 5th WR for a starter is almost always good.

  • steeltown

    It does matter somewhat because of his role as a RB and KR he wont have an impact on the WR#s, meaning they will most likely keep 5WRs regardless of whether Archer takes snaps there or not.
    I think L.Moores cap hit is around $1MIL, I think he’s well worth that, only around $350K more than DHB in ’14 and that’s not much to add to the FA pot

  • falconsaftey43

    Your idea of trading Moore only makes even a little sense if there is someone out there worth signing at another position that would be an upgrade? Care to make any suggestions? We currently have $6.5 mill in cap space, trading Moore doesn’t increase your buying power that much.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    AB, Wheaton, Bryant, JB, Dri and the winner of the DHB, Moye etc battle. I can be happy with that if Bryant and Brown and ready to contribute.

    The dollars are less than I was thinking and if it doesn’t help us upgrade a starter then it isn’t something I am advocating anyway.

    I think Dri has far more impact on WR snaps than you expect. Any snap he gets in the offense is probably instead of a WR even if he isn’t playing that position.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    There isn’t anyone I know of at this time but if you take that 6.5 and add the money from Moore and Cam we would have enough for almost anyone that gets cut.

    I wouldn’t do it for fun. There has to be someone to sign or you just cut your own throat.

  • dgh57

    I think injuries to Spaeth and Miller not being 100% had more to do with Cothery’s season then anything else.

    When you look at a WR the most valuable asset he has is his HANDS and that’s something you don’t trade away. Just ask DHB about hands. He has all the speed you would want in a WR but it’s not of much value if he can’t catch. It’s also going to take more than a 4th/5th WR to get a starter in a trade because we are talking about value here.

  • Craig Ressler

    One thing I like about Brown is he is a tall WR. So we essentially have at least two shots at having one of our tall WRs pan out and excel. I know we have a couple more tall WRs beyond Brown and Bryant among our current players but not with as much upside as these guys, IMO.

  • Donte Williams

    Eric you smoking or something. one why would the Steelers trade Moore or cut him to get another Veteran WR or unproven rookie? Now if Josh Gordan serves his suspension and the Browns cut him I will gamble on him or if Andre Johnson gets cut or demands a trade I would take him but his bank will be to rich for the Steelers. DHB i dont see getting cut but demoated to practice squad if he doesnt cut it. I like our WR core. and for those that say our OLB spot is thin it may be but if we stay healthy it doesnt matter. Moats can play out side so can carter so’ota as well. We did good in the draft and F/A this year IMHO and i like how we look. dont forget Harrison still out there so is Kiesel and like falconsaftey43 stated we got 6.5 million more than enough to sign some vets to vet minimum. we havent even seen Moore play in the Steelers system so we dont know yet. lets just sit back and pray we walk out of traning camp with minimum to no major injuries

  • Matt Manzo

    I wouldn’t let go off Moore yet. Only trade I’d make is Moore for Burfict! But then Moore would probably do great in Cinncy!

  • steelster

    You wouldn’t get much for moore in a trade, what a sixth round draft pick maybe. Also, what happens if AB or wheaton gets hurt this year which has a good chance of one of them missing a few games. We have no experienced receiver’s beyond moore. Depth at wide receiver is very important because the steelers may have to pass a lot because the inexperienced defense may give up a lot of points.

  • Donte Williams

    I like Moye he just couldnt grasp the play book last year reason he didnt see no time except what 3 xs and that only due to injury. has anyone heard anything about Blanchflower the analyst are not talking about him

  • Craig Ressler

    I have not heard anything but you’re probably as plugged in as I am or even plugged in more so.

  • No

  • Weiss Chad

    I see it as Bryant ,DhB,and moye in which I think Bryant wins due to a higher ceiling.Goodbye DhB and goodbye moye imo

  • joed32

    Just that he looked slow but I don’t remember who made the comment.

  • joed32

    Moore is a good player and a smart vet that can get open. Much like Cotchery.

  • Matt Manzo

    I think Moores gonna be great for us, I wouldn’t trade him, I’m just still sore over not taking a chance on Burfict!

  • Leon Mcnair

    Trade Moore is dumb there is no value for that duhh, if beachum goes down they have wimper and Adams some people need to think

  • Steelers12328882

    It’s funny that there seems to be more discussion about Justin Brown than there is about Wheaton. I’m starting to think that Moore will win the #2 spot at WR.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Did you not read/understand the conversation or were you impressed with Adams and Whimper at LT? An attitude with lack of comprehension and stupid ideas is a terrible combination.