As the 90-man rosters are now set, you now have the information to start looking into training camp battles, and see what positions the Steelers may be looking at this year. We will look through the Steelers roster and see who not only will make the team, but where they stand in terms of playing time for not only the 2016 season, but for the future. There are always reasons to hold on to these lower end players who may be able to make an impact as players come and go via free agency. This edition we will look at the wide receiver position. The Steelers will likely carry five or six wide receivers
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Depth Chart Projections
1. Antonio Brown
It is safe to say that Brown is a lock for the roster. He is the most consistent, and most dominant player on the team and arguably the league. He amazingly upped his total receptions from 129 in 2014 to 136 with Ben Roethlisberger missing four games. Those marks rank 2nd and 4th all-time in terms of most receptions. There seems to be little to worry about with Brown as he enters the season, of course other than the question as to if he can break Marvin Harrison’s record for most catches in one season at 143 this year.
2. Markus Wheaton
Wheaton enters a huge year for his career earnings. Wheaton is an unrestricted free agent, and his biggest competition for a big year, Martavis Bryant, will be forced to miss the entire season. It is very possible it will not be for the Steelers, but Wheaton has a good chance to make a lot of money this year. Last year Wheaton had 79 targets compared to Bryant who had 90. The thought would be with little known commodities behind him, he can take on a majority of those 90 targets. If he is able to show that he can take advantage of those targets, he can almost double his production and he would probably be out of the Steelers price range. The Steelers have Sammie Coates, Darius Heyward-Bey and Bryant locked up past this season, so it is kind of hard to look at Wheaton as a guy they must re-sign. Still, with Coates having proved nothing and Bryant under the watch of the NFL with a chance to be suspended, they could be thin at wide receiver next year if they are to see Wheaton leave.
3. Sammie Coates
Coates will come into the season as a big unknown being a former fourth round pick that barley saw the field as a rookie. Coates had one regular season catch in 2015, and had two in the playoffs when stepping in for an injured Antonio Brown. He showed athletic explosion and ability to run after the catch in his limited time, but he is still a major question. In college, it seemed to be concentration drops and route running that were his biggest knocks, and especially in the route running, there is no idea how much he has come along since the draft last season. He will start training camp behind Heyward-Bey on the depth chart, but given his youth and the fact that the Steelers will want to see what they have in him he should see the field a lot more than the year before. He will be what gives them their confidence to either let Wheaton walk this year, or to desperately hang onto him, and will walk into training camp with the ability to win over a good majority of Bryant’s 90 targets.
4. Darius Heyward-Bey
Before the Bryant suspension the big question was why would the Steelers sign Heyward-Bey to a two-year deal if he was going to most likely be the fifth string wide receiver. We now know that they will more than likely be seeing him contribute not only as a fifth receiver and as a special teamer, on offense. He has not been reliable in his limited time since signing with the Steelers, but still averaged 15 yards per catch last year on 21 catches. He can still stretch the field, and he is now a veteran who should be looking to help Coates take his snaps. In the best case scenario Coates beats Heyward-Bey early, and Heyward-Bey spends the whole season playing special teams. In the worst case, Heyward-Bey has to step up for a not ready Coates and a stagnant Wheaton and be a legitmate season long threat in this offense.
5. Demarcus Ayers
Ayers was only a seventh round pick for the Steelers, but it appears he will have every chance to win a roster spot. Ayers is penciled in as the Steelers starting punt returner, and as discussed on in our previous article, he has little competition in that regard. If the Steelers do not feel he can give them anything as a wide receiver, they will carry a sixth, if not they will ride with their four bigger names, and Ayers.
If six receivers make the roster, the sixth will be Eli Rogers. The Steelers kept him around the practice squad last year, and liked what he did in camp and may have a 50/50 chance of making the roster. Isaac Blakeney is a name to watch as a long shot to make the roster, mainly due to his big size of 6’6″ compared to Rogers, who is 5’10”, but as a polished, NFL ready receiver Rogers gets the nod. Canaan Severin may also be a player to watch and see if the Steelers stash him on the practice squard, with intentions of using him in the future.