Throughout the offseason, I’ve been fairly consistent in maintaining that the Pittsburgh Steelers could carry six wide receivers into this season, despite the fact that Dri Archer is as much a receiver as he is a running back.
I believe that most of my roster predictions have included six wide receivers, and I believe that my final prediction will include six as well, though the order may be different.
The play of Darrius Heyward-Bey during the past two games has virtually locked himself up a roster spot after overcoming a concussion early in training camp that limited his productivity and kept him out of the first preseason game.
He finished last night with a game-high six receptions for 44 yards, and he has nine receptions for 98 yards in the past two, including a 33-yard touchdown. He has caught everything in his vicinity without dropping any passes.
What’s more than that, he’s proven to be a worthwhile contributor on special teams, and has shown a willingness to block in both the passing game and the running game.
This was the scouting report that we presented after his signing when he fell out of favor with the Indianapolis Colts, and he’s shown that here—without the drops.
Last year’s sixth-round draft pick, Justin Brown, has not been nearly as noticeable during this preseason. Through four games, he has five receptions for 32 yards, including two for 17 yards last night.
If you pay attention to his snap counts, however, it does seem that he is still favored by the team, and that alone could help persuade the team to carry six wide receivers. And Brown is the type of player that does things away from the ball as well.
Brown and Heyward-Bey got the bulk of the early work last night with Landry Jones in at quarterback, and both of them showed a tenacity and willingness to block, even aggressively. I believe it’s Brown’s complete body of work that gives him the best chance of making the 53-man roster this time around.
Of course, he is also special teams-capable, has good size at 6’3”, and perhaps most importantly, plays every wide receiver position, flowing from one to the next from play to play. He can move over to the slot or either outside position depending on the shifting personnel, which is a great asset for him to have.
Add in the fact that rookie Martavis Bryant suffered a shoulder injury last night, and, depending on the severity, they could be down a target for a while—a tall target. It could be useful to have Brown around.
It wouldn’t be the worst thing for Brown if he has to spend another season on the practice—he’ll make it eventually—but I get the feeling he may be blocking his way on to the roster. It won’t be long before we know for sure, though I wouldn’t be surprised either way.