This is the next in a series that looks at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching. Our fourth look is at wide receiver.
Returning starter: Antonio Brown. There are breakout seasons. Then there is what Brown did in 2013 when there were questions about whether the Steelers had a No. 1 wide receiver following the free-agent loss of Mike Wallace. Brown set a Steelers single-season record with 1,499 receiving yards and his 110 catches were just three shy of establishing a team record in that category.
New faces: Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Steelers signed Moore to a two-year, $3.5 million contract shortly after Jerricho Cotchery signed with the Carolina Panthers. They signed the speedy Heyward-Bey to a veteran minimum contract and he will have to win a spot on the 53-man roster.
On the bubble: Derek Moye. The former undrafted free agent played his way onto the roster last season but he had a hard time getting on the field. The 6-5, 210-pounder caught just two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown, and he will have to hold off Heyward-Bey and 2013 sixth-round pick Justin Brown, among others, to again stick with the Steelers.
By the numbers: Brown had 23 catches that were at least 20 yards last season – one more than Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Did you know: Danny Coale, who signed with Pittsburgh last January, is the son-in-law of former Steelers offensive lineman and color analyst for the team radio broadcasts Tunch Ilkin. Coale, a fifth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2012, has spent time on the Cowboys’ and Indianapolis Colts’ practice squads.
Quotable: “You can see a different level of confidence in the way they carry themselves. They are no longer rookies. They are no longer looking around at who to follow. They are coming out here and leading their group. I think that’s come from hard work. They didn’t get noticed during the season last year when they were on the practice squad or not getting a ton of reps in games, but everybody out here can see that they were working hard and were continuing to make plays and get better.” – offensive coordinator Todd Haley on second-year wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Brown.
Outlook: The Steelers had significant turnover at the position with the losses of Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders. They need Wheaton, a 2013 third-round pick, to emerge after a broken pinkie sabotaged most of his rookie season. Moore should prove to be a more than capable replacement for Cotchery and the wild card of the group is rookie Martavis Bryant. The fourth-round pick has an excellent blend of size and speed, and he could help the Steelers this season if he makes steady progress during training camp and preseason practice.