Early Absences Of Coates, Bryant Means More Chances For Hunter To Impress

The Pittsburgh Steelers will hold their first training camp practice of 2017 on Friday and they’ll do so without the services of three of the 11 wide receivers they have under contract. Those shorter lines will present instant opportunities for a few other wide receivers to impress and one in particular.

With Sammie Coates and Canaan Severin both being placed on the team’s Active PIP list on Thursday, in addition to Martavis Bryant likely to miss roughly a week of practice due to procedural issues related to his conditional reinstatement, the Steelers will open training camp Friday with just eight wide receivers on the field. One of those eight and the one who likely stands to gain the most with Coates and Bryant sidelined, is newcomer Justin Hunter.

Hunter, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers this past March, offers his new team the same kind of skill set that both Bryant and Coates possess. He is long and speedy just like his currently sidelined teammates and has a brief history of being able to catch the deep ball.

While Hunter’s career hasn’t gone likely many probably expected it would after he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Tennessee, it goes without saying that he’s yet to have a high-quality NFL quarterback throwing him the football. That’s no longer the case now that he’s in Pittsburgh as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws one of the best deep balls in the league.

Hunter originally hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia so it goes without saying that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin already has a thick book on his newest wide receiver as he hails from that area as well. Tomlin will give Hunter every opportunity to make the 53-man roster during the next five weeks and with camp opening with shorter lines at the wide receiver position, he should get plenty of reps.

Availability during training camp is always a much-needed ability for roster bubble players such as Hunter and right now that’s something he possesses. His other abilities have been shown on game tape over the course of the last four seasons and now he just needs to show them more consistently.

Hunter now has Richard Mann coaching him and he’s one of the best in the NFL at what he does. In short, the breaks are going Hunter’s way at the start of training camp and if he ultimately fails to make the 53-man roster, he’ll only have himself to blame.

  • Steve Johnson

    C’Mon Hunter, let’s go!

  • StolenUpVotes

    Time to eat sir

  • WreckIess

    I wonder how this will affect Juju’s reps, if at all? Do they give him some reps on the outside with the first team or do they keep him at 2nd team slot?

  • Michael Conrad

    I agree Dave but this is also good for Ayers and JJSS they will get more reps and game time. Right now the ball is their hands. I’m pulling for all three.

  • Charles Mullins

    And there went the wide receiver depth. Crazy how quick that can happen. Better now than the season for sure.

  • john bennett

    I’m not ready to give up on Coates. Those first five games last year were pretty impressive.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    As we move on toward making a roster, I think some clarity is starting to grow on me. I don’t know how the FO feels, but this IMO.

    I think Bryant, AB, and Schuster-Smith are locks.

    Rogers I think only needs to beat out for Ayers for a roster spot. He brings a skill set that guys like Hunter, Coates, and DHB do not bring to the table in punt return and ability to play the slot.

    Coates, DHB, and Hunter are all fighting for 2 spots. Ayers has a shot, but I really don’t think he is going to be on the list.

    To me, You figure out who is the best receiver of the group. IMO that fight comes down to Hunter and Coates. We know what DHB gives us and its not a lot as a receiver.

    Once you make that decision the fight becomes more interesting. The last spot is all about special teams. Ayers suddenly comes back into the mix. If Hunter doesn’t win the WR contest he is probably out.

  • colingrant

    I was a teenager in 1974 and just beginning to understand talent acquisition and personnel decision making from reading the sports section in the Pittsburgh Press and Gazette, and it was then that Chuck Noll and Steelers coaches stated in interviews that the NFL players strike had a significant role in the brilliance of that draft which we all know yielded 4 hall of fame players and Jimmy Allen who played a number of years, as a part-time I believe.

    The strike lasted 6 weeks and enabled rookies (17 draft picks) to receive extended 1-on-1 instruction and oversight from the ultimate teacher (Noll) and his staff, expediting their learning curve and permitted coaches to evaluate and coach players much longer than they otherwise would’ve. Not to mention the preseason was 6 weeks long back then, so the rookies really received a long look. I always remember that which is why I don’t fret over a vet not being in camp, as it allows the coaches to see and instruct newcomers through increased exposure.

  • Craig M

    I would take Hunter over DHB, and I like DHB. And I would take Ayers over Coates because I’m just not sold on Coates catching % ability (at present).

  • Craig M

    Good perspective colingrant, I’d forgotten all about the strike.

  • SteeltheKing

    Did Coates’ knee just start giving him trouble? Or is this another case of hoping the pain would go away on its own? I mean the day before report day is not exactly a great time to schedule a knee surgery. I do agree it is good to be able to give Hunter/Shuster/Ayers/Hamilton extra reps to impress early on. Hopefully Coates doesn’t miss too much time because that is going to be a big battle. Each practice he misses his grip on a roster spot loosens a little bit.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Hunter is in my top 5 of the guys I’m most excited to see what they got. I think the door is WIDE open for him to come in and steal a job. Either Coates or Hey-Bey’s. I would be lying if I said that I’m not concerned about Sammie now. Physically, that kid is a 24 year old with a 65 year old body. Foot, hand/finger, concussions, groin/hernia, knees.. And who knows what else.

    Yep. I think Hunter can make it a very tough decision for the coaching staff.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Bryant will be out there soon I bet, and he sure appears physically to be ready to roll. Coates’ knee scope isn’t as serious as some are making it sound. He should have good knowledge of the playbook and be back running around by mid-August. Still plenty of time to claim a roster spot. If he fails to do so, it’s probably not to blame on injury, but rather Hunter and Ayers taking it.

  • nutty32

    Why does Coates have Bengal stripes graphic’d on his F150 Raptor truck that he came to camp in? The team should obliged him and ship him out to the heartless Bungles.

  • Terrible Towlie

    Auburn Tigers

  • Terrible Towlie

    this is probably like making the pro bowl for Hunter….now he has a franchise qb throwing to him, we can see really what type of player his is or will be

  • nutty32

    I dunno, man. Those are straight up Bengal stripes. Auburn don’t even use that logo and navy is their primary color. He probably never went to class at Auburn and can’t tell, anyhow.