The other day, ESPN writer Matt Williamson visited the Pittsburgh Steelers’ minicamp in order to get a feel for the team with first-hand experience of the roster, and he came away impressed. I relayed yesterday his believe that the team’s rookie third-round wide receiver, Sammie Coates, has the potential to make an impact on the offense during his rookie season, which is not necessarily a commonly held opinion.
But he also made an interesting secondary point that supports his view of Coates and his potential to procure a solid amount of playing time and production during his first season. That point was that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has somewhat of a pattern of preference throughout his coaching history about what he likes in his wide receivers.
And one of those common characteristics is size, if you go back and take a quick look at some of the high-profile wide receivers that were featured in his offensive game plan in Arizona and later with Kansas City.
The obvious starting point would be Larry Fitzgerald, who of course predates his time with the Cardinals, as does Anquan Boldin. But Haley took that Cardinals offense with these two 6’1” and above receivers all the way to the Super Bowl.
And then when he left for a head coaching position with the Chiefs, he inherited Dwayne Bowe, a 6’2” receiver, who he later paired with a first-round wide receiver—the 6’4” Jonathan Baldwin.
Since joining the Steelers’ coaching staff in 2012, the Steelers have drafted four wide receivers who, with the exception of Markus Wheaton, were all 6’1” or taller, with the 6’1” Coates being the shortest of the group. Justin Brown was 6’2”, while Martavis Bryant pushes 6’4”.
Haley entered the coaching ranked by way of serving as a scout for the New York Jets for a couple of years while his father, Dick, was the Director of Player Personnel there. After a couple of years there, he was made an offensive assistant, and later the wide receivers coach, where he helped the 6’4” Keyshawn Johnson earn a couple of Pro Bowl nods.
He then moved on to the same position with the Bears, helping Marty Booker, another over-six-foot target, earn his only Pro Bowl bid, before moving on to the Cowboys, sending the 6’3” Terrell Owens to the Pro Bowl and a first-team All-Pro nod.
It was only after the 2006 season that he moved on to the Cardinals as offensive coordinator, which is where most tend to pick up the story arc of his coaching career and the success that he found with the likes of Fitzgerald and Boldin.
But we do see a bit of a pattern throughout his career, be it a combination of preference and circumstance, in the usage of larger wide receivers, and we see that bleeding into the profile of wide receivers that the Steelers have not only drafted, but also targeted as undrafted free agents, the majority of whom are 6’2” and above. It does seem that for Haley, when it comes to the wide receiver position, size does matter—unless you’re Antonio Brown, of course.