Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Justin Brown is continuing to carve out a niche for himself following the first day of training camp practices. A quick glance around the internet reveals that he put in yet another impressive day with difficult and impressive leaping catches while working with Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense.
As Alex Kozora wrote in his day one notes, Brown spent his day working with the starters, or the ‘ones’, including Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Lance Moore, when a play called for a fourth receiver.
So where was Darrius Heyward-Bey? Kozora writes that he spent most of his time working with the camp bodies like Kashif Moore and Lanear Sampson, which is obviously not a very encouraging sign for the veteran free agent.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewwriter Mark Kaboly does note in his observations of the first day of practices, however, that Heyward-Bey worked some with Roethlisberger during a team period, and even hauled in a long touchdown pass.
Overall, however, it certainly seems as though Brown, the former sixth-round pick, will be given every opportunity to work his way into the wide receiver rotation this year, as long as he continues to perform while given a chance.
That is something that he failed to do during his rookie season, and is a big reason why he spent last year on the practice squad instead of the 53-man roster.
In general, he had a pretty fine offseason for a rookie receiver, and got off on the right foot once training camp arrived. He put in a good showing in the opening preseason game, but once the Steelers broke camp for the South Side facility, his performance seemed to trail off, and with it so did his chances of making the roster.
Thus, it is with caution that we note Brown’s current position in the upper tier of the line of demarcation within the wide receiver group, because it could prove to be quite temporary should he slip up at any point.
The Steelers universally seem to believe that they have quite a deep crop of wide receivers this year, so it should be too difficult to replace the fourth or fifth player on the depth chart with the next man up.
Heyward-Bey certainly wouldn’t mind the added reps working with the first-team offense, considering he’s spent the majority of his career as a starting wide receiver. Just the fact that he signed a veteran-minimum contract with the Steelers shows how far he’s fallen in terms of his reputation in a short amount of time.
Another player who could stand to benefit from gobbling up Brown’s reps with Roethlisberger and the other starting receivers would be rookie Martavis Bryant, who, like Brown, is one of the few players in that position room that can offer the offense some height. The top three receivers on the depth chart all come in at under six foot.
It’s important to keep in mind, naturally, that what you see on the first day of training camp is not exactly written in stone. Over the course of the next few weeks, players will be mixed and matched with different groups for one reason or another, all in the effort to help improve the team.
But as of now, it appears that the coaching staff wants to see if Brown can pick up where he left off this spring, and day one was far from a letdown in that regard.