PITTSBURGH -- This is the third in a series in which I will examine every position relative to the 2013 season -- and take a look ahead.
The good: Antonio Brown answered any questions about whether the Steelers had a No. 1 wide receiver after Mike Wallace left for Miami with an exclamation point. Brown put together the greatest season by a Steelers receiver by catching 110 passes for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns. The Steelers don’t have to worry about Brown getting complacent as he is a tireless worker who hasn’t forgotten that 194 players were taken ahead of him in the 2010 NFL draft. Cotchery made the most of his first extensive playing time with the Steelers, catching a career-high 10 touchdown passes and showing that he can still play 10 seasons into his NFL career.
The bad: Sanders put up decent numbers in his first season as a starter but he was also inconsistent. The Steelers need more reliability out of their No. 2 wide receiver since teams will have a whole offseason to game plan for Brown. The Steelers got almost nothing out of rookie Markus Wheaton as a finger injury stunted the third-round draft pick’s development. Derek Moye has intriguing size but he hasn’t shown enough for the Steelers to count on him emerging as the tall wide receiver that the offense is missing.
The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): The Steelers only have serious money tied up in Brown, whose cap hit will be $8.47 million. One of the biggest questions of the offseason is what they are willing to pay Sanders to bring back the fourth-year veteran in 2014. The Steelers matched the one-year, $2.5 million contract that the Patriots signed Sanders to last year as a restricted free agent. They are likely to let the market set Sanders' price before deciding if they want to make a serious run at re-signing him. Cotchery, who made $1.5 million in 2013, has said he wants to stay in Pittsburgh and his price shouldn’t be too prohibitive for the Steelers to bring him back.
Draft priority: Moderate to high depending on what happens with Sanders. If he leaves the Steelers could take a wide receiver with one of their top picks and possibly their first-round selection. This appears to be a deep draft for wide receiver and the Steelers may be tempted to take a tall one with the 15th overall pick.Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin are among the wide receivers who fit that profile and are projected first-round picks.