Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Justin Brown spent his rookie season on the practice squad, losing out to Derek Moye for the last roster spot at the position to replace Plaxico Burress, whose season ended early in training camp.
But the team lost both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency, opening up some spots on the depth chart. Unfortunately for Brown, he will be competing with rookie Martavis Bryant and free agent acquisitions Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey for one of those positions.
Bryant and Moore would appear to be virtual locks to make the roster, and with the addition of Dri Archer, it would be surprising if the Steelers carry more than five receivers this year.
So it seems, then, that if Brown wishes to take the next step in year two and make the roster, he’ll have to beat out Moye and Heyward-Bey. But some think he has a good shot, at least at this point during the offseason.
Yesterday, I talked about how Mark Kaboly had spoken positively about Heyward-Bey and his versatility and experience. But right after that, he followed it with this bit about the former sixth-round draft pick, who’s just as tall as the veteran receiver:
He reminds me of what I saw from Derek Moye last year. If you recall, I was a little bit on the Derek Moye bandwagon last year around this time and in training camp. That was for the fact that he just kept showing up. He kept showing up, and that seems like what Justin Brown is doing this year.
There were positive reports of Brown’s progress from last season as he participated on the scout team, and he also supposedly looked sharp when Ben Roethlisberger brought the young receivers out for a throwing session earlier this year.
Now he continues to look good during the first few OTA sessions, and people are starting to think he has a chance. Kaboly concluded:
“He’s looking really good. I don’t know if there’s a spot for him quite yet, but maybe he is a guy that pushes Darrius Heyward-Bey out the door”.
Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider also took notice of the second-year man, and even noted that he has him looking like the fifth receiver right now in the early goings of the offseason workouts.
So, too, does Dale Lolley, who gave his endorsement of Brown on his blog, saying that he “has the inside track on the fifth wide receiver spot”.
Being so far down on the depth chart, of course, Brown will have to show that he can contribute more on special teams than he displayed during his first preseason. If I recall correctly, he was penalized early on, and then didn’t receive much time on the special teams units.
The preseason should be fun to watch this year to see how the wide receiver depth chart is established. With an interesting mixture of young players and new veterans, the position is quite unsettled, and it’s hard to get a read on how good or bad the unit will be until we see them on the field.