After going over some season statistics yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice something, and that is, with the exception of wide receiver Sammie Coates, it doesn’t appear that any of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ main contributors in the passing game are really getting the opportunities to make the most of their receptions.
Coates’ 22.2 yards per reception is among the best in the league, but he is the only player on the roster with more than two receptions on the year that is averaging more than 13 yards per reception, and only two are averaging more than 12 yards.
Even perennial All-Pro Antonio Brown’s numbers are down, as he is averaging just 11.9 yards per reception at the moment. With the exception of his rookie season, during which he sparsely played and had just 16 receptions, that would be tied for the lowest mark in his career, which occurred in 2012.
Brown has averaged over 13 yards per reception in each of the past three seasons under a very heavy volume of passes, averaging 13.5 in 2015, 13.2 in 2014, and 13.6 in 2013. His first Pro Bowl season in 2011 actually saw him hit 16.1 yards per reception on 69 receptions as he forced his way into the rotation.
The one that sticks out the most to me, however, is the tight end position, specifically starter Jesse James, who has 20 receptions through six games, but has just 141 yards to show for it, as he is averaging just 7.1 yards per reception.
Out of 33 tight ends in the league who have recorded at least 10 receptions thus far this season, that yards per reception figure ranks 31st. Among tight ends with at least 20 receptions—in other words, those who are received as legitimate passing options, his average is at least three yards lower than most, and at least 1.4 yards lower than the nearest option.
Eli Rogers’ 10.4 yards per reception is nearly spectacular nor poor from the slot position, although it is on the lower end of the spectrum, but DeAngelo Williams has averaged only 6.1 yards per reception. Le’Veon Bell, at least, has impressed with his 8.9-yard average on 20 receptions, which is already tied for the second-most on the team.
Everybody else who has caught a pass this year has caught fewer than 10, and all but one from that group has caught fewer than five, so their numbers are not indicative. Markus Wheaton, for example has four receptions, one of which was a 30-yard touchdown for a 12.8-yard average, but just a seven-yard average on three of his four receptions.
In other words, what these numbers are indicative of is the fact that, for most of the players involved thus far, the offense has not been as explosive as it has been in the recent past. Brown is not getting as many yards after the catch as he is used to. It has been Coates’ vertical success that has kept the deep threat alive, as the only player on the roster with a reception of 40 yards or more.