With minicamp in the rearview mirror and training camp on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Steelers should already have all of the main components of their offseason roster in place, with all draft picks signed and no more free agents projected to be added until further evaluation.
It’s possible that a need should arise for further additions, either due to poor performance or injuries, once we reach training camp.
But for the time being, we should take a look at the depth chart that the front office has put together since the end of the 2013 season and see how well it stacks up in terms of quality and depth.
Due to the cumbersome lengths that offseason rosters can reach, we will be projecting a number or range of roster spots per position and focusing on that number of players per position, with other potential notables receiving mention below.
Position: Wide Receiver
Projected Roster Spots: 5-6
Antonio Brown: Coming off his second Pro Bowl season in the last three years, Antonio Brown is one of the best young receivers in the game, and it’s primarily a credit to his peerless work ethic.
He set the franchise record for receiving yards in a season and became the first receiver in league history to record at least five catches for 50 yards in every game for a full season. That’ll be a tough act to follow, but hopefully he’ll have more of a supporting cast this year, and not just from the wide receivers.
Markus Wheaton: Limited to six catches as a rookie, Markus Wheaton is expected to make significant strides in his second season as he enters the starting lineup. It’s by no means uncommon for the Steelers to start a second-year receiver, though Wheaton may have had the least productive rookie season of the three most recent cases. Still, he likely comes in as the most polished nonetheless.
Lance Moore: Replacing the presence of Jerricho Cotchery, Lance Moore brings his savvy veteran skills to help nurture a young group of wide receivers and to provide stability and a security blanket for the quarterback as the slot receiver.
Martavis Bryant: The rookie needs some coaching before he knows what he’s doing, but he has plenty of attributes that you can’t coach, including size and speed. The Steelers no doubt will have packages for him to get him on the field, particularly in red zone situations.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: The second of two veteran receivers the Steelers brought in to balance out their losses, Darrius Heyward-Bey figures to have a battle on his hands for a roster spot, especially if the team only carries five this year. He has a reputation of having very inconsistent hands, but he has height, speed, blocking ability, and a willingness to contribute.
Justin Brown: The second-year former sixth-round pick seems to have made strides since his rookie season. He’s received a fair bit of press so far this offseason, and even got a chance to work with the first-team offense a bit. But if he wants to make the roster this time around, he needs to keep it going through the preseason, and also show that he can contribute on special teams.
Others: The Steelers have many candidates at receiver this year, such that it seems likely they may have to let one go who can actually play. Maybe not be a regular contributor, but deserving of a roster spot in this league.
Of course, Dri Archer factors into this discussion. Derek Moye was on the roster last year. Young players such as Danny Coale and C.J. Goodwin are also to be considered—if they can get enough playing time during the preseason.