For Sammie Coates, more reps: The Steelers' selection of Coates in the third round last season was in part a reaction to Bryant's looming four-game suspension that year. Now, the selection looks perfectly timed, assuming Coates is ready. Know this: The Steelers will give Coates a chance to earn that No. 3 receiver job. Asking around about the Steelers' receiver plans behind Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, Coates is consistently mentioned. The team didn't need him last year. It does now. And though Coates sometimes looks uneven in practice, he was ready for that playoff game with two catches for 61 yards. Perhaps he's more of a gamer than a practice stud.
For Wheaton, more set plays: While the Steelers designed a lot of bubble screens/reverse/go routes for Bryant, Wheaton was rarely a first option. When Bryant was out early last year, Wheaton and Ben Roethlisberger weren't on the same page for some reason. Expect the Steelers to work harder to set up Wheaton in the offense. He'll be the clear-cut No. 2 receiver. He'll also be in a contract year. He'll want the ball as a result.
For Le'Veon Bell, a trip back to 2014: In six games last season (four with the Landry Jones/Mike Vick quarterback combo), Bell averaged four receptions per game compared to 5.18 the year before. Back with Big Ben full-time, Bell can channel 2014 again. What makes Bell great, aside from his patient running style, is his elite pass-catching ability. He can be a high-level slot receiver if you need him to be. The Steelers might need that at times.
For Antonio Brown, a healthy reminder to the Steelers front office: Yes, the Steelers have a policy not to offer contract extensions when a player has two or more years left on his deal. But if any non-quarterback can change that, it's Brown, who is coming off a 136-catch season, is one of the league's best bargains (average of $7.48 million in salary over the final two years of his deal) and is more important than ever with Bryant out again. Perhaps agent Drew Rosenhaus will bring up all these things in his next meeting with the Steelers.
For the Steelers, a refueled O-line: The Steelers are evaluating several free agent tackles, including giving a contract offer to OT Russell Okung. The offensive line is already a strong point, but the injuries stung last year, and protecting Roethlisberger is paramount. The Steelers appear ready to load up in this area. Last week, they re-signed Ramon Foster to a three-year, $9.6-million deal.
For Roethlisberger, a go-get-'em, Ben: Roethlisberger is the equalizer here. The Steelers feel they have a chance in every game because of him. So, not much really changes for him in this regard. Just go play. In Week 1 last year, Roethlisberger went into New England without Bryant or Bell and threw for 351 yards. This offense is built to withstand one loss. The guess here is Roethlisberger gets friendly with new tight end Ladarius Green, who is 6-foot-6 with good speed. He's a vertical tight end threat, which gives the Steelers a similar mold to Bryant -- maybe not with Bryant's speed burst, but enough simulation to keep defenses honest.