Todd Haley Not Simply Paying Lip Service To His Wide Receivers

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley recently said that the group of wide receivers the team currently has is “as deep a group” as he has been around in his career, adding that he believes there will be good football players at wide receiver in camp who do not make the roster.

It’s important to emphasize Haley’s choice of words, describing this group as deep, rather than supremely talented. This is not the most talented group of wide receivers he’s been around. Not when he once coached Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin together, in their primes.

But it may very well be the deepest, because the Steelers have an intriguing crop of underdogs in camp this year, all battling for fringe roster spots or an apprenticeship on the practice squad.

This of course comes just a few months after losing over 100 receptions and 16 touchdowns from last season when Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery both left to call new cities their homes in free agency.

But Antonio Brown, coming off an All-Pro season, is always a good place to start, and the addition of a savvy veteran such as Lance Moore does much to alleviate concerns.

The heart of Haley’s premise, however, lies beyond the higher profile figures. It’s the fact that a veteran such as Darrius Heyward-Bey must battle for a roster spot that makes it so.

It’s a second-year former sixth-round pick like Justin Brown receiving praise from his quarterback when given the opportunity to take some snaps with the first team that makes it so. It’s the fact that he appears to be rushing past the man who beat him out for a roster spot last season.

Everybody knows that former third-round pick Markus Wheaton is expected to take a significant step forward this season, as the Steelers are counting on him to turn in an on-par performance as a starting wide receiver this year, jumping from fourth on the depth chart to second.

They also understand the potential of rookie Martavis Bryant and the role that he could serve as a red zone and big play threat with his size and speed as a rookie while he digests the offense and figures out what he’s truly doing.

But the fact that we’re able to talk about players such as Danny Coale and C.J. Goodwin in a serious manner when it comes to making the roster or the practice squad really starts to get at the heart of the matter.

Derek Moye and Kashif Moore were good enough to stick around from last season to this summer as the best of the rest, and now they seem to be very much outside the bubble for even a practice squad spot.

Add in the fact that rookie Dri Archer is a dual threat at running back and wide receiver, and you begin to realize that Haley wasn’t simply paying lip service to his players.

The reality is that many of these wide receivers won’t make it. Some of them may call it a career after they miss the cut this fall. And while potential is nice, the group is still littered with question marks who have accomplished nothing as professionals.

But looking back through recent team history, I can’t recall a more intriguing group of wide receivers from top to bottom.

There may well be a handful of players from this group good enough to earn a roster spot in this league that will be left out in the cold. I’m not sure I would need two hands to count the number of receivers that would apply to for the Steelers over the past decade prior to this year.

About the Author

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

    I feel a lot better about the WR corps this year vs last, but there are still some players that need to step up that we have not really seen do it when it counts. Aside from A. Brown and Moore, everyone else has some questions…The main one Is Wheaton equal to (hopefully better than) Sanders?

  • steeltown

    One of the bottom guys is going to surprise us in preseason

  • Steelers12328882

    I think the biggest surprise out of this group will be Lance Moore outperforming Marcus Wheaton for the #2 spot. I just have a feeling Wheaton is still a year away from making a big impact, and Moore’s experience will shine early and often enough to keep Wheaton on the bench.

  • Steel PAul

    I believe they’re currently slotted into different positions, with Moore as a slot and Wheaton outside.

  • AndyR34

    I believe that during minicamp and OTA’s, Moore was getting work on the outside also. Might just be to improve familiarity with all of the routes, but maybe not.

  • srdan

    I like that you emphasized the word “deep”. This means that there is players to choose from and see who can fulfill their potential. Good article, well interpreted.

  • cp72

    Gonna be hard to impress when you’re playing in the pre-season with Landry Jones. He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

  • Jason White

    I seen on Twitter where many people were taking Haley’s words out of context. I knew exactly what he meant by deep. Obviously Fitz, Boldin and Breaston was the most productive bunch as a whole. But to be honest I don’t remember who was behind them. So many people want Haley fired and without warrant. The irrational hatred for Todd Haley I see from so many Steelers fans is really sad.

  • Matt Manzo

    I actually think that Moore will do great for us and that will open up a lot of “splash” plays for Wheaton! He might not get a lot of catches but I think we’ll see a lot “jump off the couch” plays!

  • Matt Manzo

    At least we got Moye some snaps last year. I feel like we, too often, let go of guys that we haven’t really seen or given a chance.
    I’d be fine with cutting ties with Moye now, even though I like him, he shouldn’t of dropped that TD!

  • whisn

    it wasn’t an easy catch, the defender had his arm across Moye’s, and only free’d his second hand when the ball was right at him, it wasn’t an easy catch at all, i slo-mo’d it and watched it up close several times. I’m not saying it was uncatchable, but it was a difficult one. Sanders dropped far easier ones last season, including one where he tried to catch it with his eyes shut!!

    Every man and his dog seems to be too willing to write Moye off right now, but with no real basis.

  • Madi

    I think their #4 was a guy named Jeremy Urban. I only remember because I must have watched that Super Bowl about 500 times.
    I have to say, I haven’t noticed a following of Fire Todd Haley people. Certainly nothing like the following BA had (myself included). I’m glad he stuck around. I think this is the year his offense and Ben’s offense really mesh well together, and if we can stay healthy, we’ll finally have the players to implement it.

  • SteveM2

    It amazes me how opinions like this one are formed, when the player in question only played a few snaps during last season. It’s as if you forgot all about the too-high pass Derek Moye went up for, caught, got hit and flipped over, landed on his head, and still held onto in the same game for a crucial first down didn’t matter.

  • whisn

    spot on.

    I live in the UK and have gamepass, so i’ve just this second, watched it again and again, the ball went between his hands because his left arm was crossed by the defenders, until the last split second, thus you see Moye trying to get his hands together to cradle the ball, but it’s just too late to do so! His eyes never left the ball to be honest, and he knows the fundamentals of catching a football i’m sure, so in conclusion, IMHO he was hampered by the defender, and couldn’t catch it easily because of that.

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m not saying he dropped the TD cuz he isn’t any good. I’m saying if he catches that TD he’s on the team for a few more years. I’m also not giving up on him for no reason, so far he’s been out performed by JBrown in the last 2 off seasons, and the depth at the position, with JB still illegible for the PS means Moyes gonna have a hard time.
    All I’m saying is at least we saw some of him on film in important games, compared to other young guys that we cut ties with too soon.
    And his catch over the top was great, but I think Tomlin and Co want more.

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m not saying he should have caught that TD, I’m saying if he did he wouldn’t have to worry about a roster spot.

  • SteveM2

    I reserve judgement on all wideouts who aren’t named Antonio Brown and Lance Moore until they perform with the pads on, and wonder why you don’t seem to do the same? None of them, except for checkered-past Darrius Heyward-Bey, really have much, if any, of an NFL track record.

    Thankfully, the Steelers are astute enough to realize they’d be damned foolish not to have an intense wide receiver competition, to give Big Ben enough talent and depth for what promises to be an very interesting 2014 season.

  • 412 Audio

    The Fire Todd Haley crew evaporated

  • Matt Manzo

    I saw Moye with pads on last year. And I think one of Bryant, DHB and JBrown will take his spot this year. I’m not saying it’s the right or wrong thing to do, I’m saying that’s what I think will happen.

  • SteveM2

    That’s not what you said

    “I’d be fine with cutting ties with Moye now..”

    four hours earlier, Matt.

  • Matt Manzo

    I would be fine with it. Because he was given a chance. Not because I think he sucks.
    My point was that if he’s released at least he got a shot. We cut so many guys that I think didn’t get a shot. I’m worried Zumwalt will be next.

  • Scot Hickerson

    The turn around for the Steelers last year came when Ben finally started Jiving with Hailey’s offense. The shorter quicker passes way fewer sacks. People said the fewer Sacks was due to the line but, I think Ben was just getting rid of the ball quicker. Behind A. Brown and Moore are proven commodities. Hailey knows how good Wheaton Justin Brown and Martivus Bryant will become. He could give the Steelers a high Scoring Offense. Also the irrational hatred of Landry Jones is sad too. I think he is going to do well in Hailey’s offense.

  • Steve

    Don’t put Landry down too much, he may surprise you!

  • Steve

    Bruce Arians O was too predictable, which Haley is not.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I like the first 4 guys I’m including Bryant in my first 4. The next WR spot is going to be interesting. I’m leaning towards DHB due to that speed and the fact that he’s now playing ST’s. Also with Dri Archer being a dual threat at RB/WR the 5th WR spot might not see the field very much but it’s nice to have all these options at WR.

  • cp72

    God I hope so.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Thanks, Dan.

  • Craig

    Too soon to write Moye off, needs more opportunities.


    It’s all about the red zone. Ben can take any group of WRs between the 20s.