Once a strength, the Steelers Wide Receivers now a question mark?

Before we dive into that question, we should look back a couple of years first, just to set the stage if you will.

Going into the 2010 season there were question marks surrounding the Steelers receivers. Hines Ward Antonio Brown Steelers Wide Receiverwas aging, Santonio Holmes was gone, and Mike Wallace; who had a solid rookie year in 2009 but still you wondered how he would respond in his sophomore year. Antwaan Randle El’s best years were behind him, and two unknowns were just drafted in Antonio Brown (6th round) and Emmanuel Sanders (3rd round). Things were sketchy at best but there were hopes for optimism with young talent in the fold.

Wallace finished 2010 with 60 catches for 1,257 yds and 10 touchdowns. Antonio Brown finished with just 16 catches but made his mark as a returner; 17 kick off returns for 397 yds and 1 TD to go along with 19 punt returns for 197 yds. His circus catches late in the year especially made you think there was more to this kid than just a dynamic returner. Emmanuel Sanders had 28 catches for 376 yds and 2 TD’s.

Fast forward to 2011, and Wallace finishes with 72 catches, 1,193 yds and 8 TD’s. Brown with 69 catches, 1,108 yds and 2 TD’s to go along with his kickoff return yardage of 737 yds and punt returns totaling 325 yds. Sanders also finished with 22 catches for 288 yds and 2 TD’s. 

I went back to those stats to point out how well things were going, but now in 2012 there are suddenly question marks about this group and their continued success with the Steelers.

Mike Wallace, we all know he’s lightening fast, but after finishing this past season with 64 catches for 838 yds and 8 TD’s, questions about his attitude on the field and seeming lack of desire to go up for the tough catch combined with his previous holdout make him a huge topic of debate. Can he really take the next step and be the elite receiver that Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger need him to be? He’s clearly not the focal point of a Haley offense, something he was with Bruce Arians, so is he better off elsewhere?

If he does go what about Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders? Without Wallace, can they stand up to the extra coverage they’ll see without #17 taking 1 or 2 DB’s down the field with him? If teams continue to play zone against the Steelers will they be able to make the tough catches in traffic consistently?

Brown finished this past season with 66 catches for 787 yds and 5 TD’s; Sanders ended up with 44 catches for 626 and 1. Those stats combined with Wallace are a far cry from 2011 when Brown became the first player ever to finish a year with 1,000 receiving and 1,000 return yards to go along with Wallace’s near 1,200 yds of production.

Emmanuel Sanders, since being drafted in 2010, has missed 8 games. That may not seem like a ton but when you factor in that he also played hurt for much of 2011 and had fumble issues in 2012, how confident are you in his ability to be a solid #2 guy for Ben Roethlisberger?

Jerricho Cotchery is a younger Hines Ward and is as reliable as they come, but he’s 30 years old now as well and won’t last forever. He’s been used sparingly the last 2 seasons, but his role could increase if Wallace leaves via free agency.

There is a ton of potential within that group, but I’m not exactly brimming with confidence at 2013 just yet. Should Mike Wallace seek employment elsewhere; drafting another WR in at least the first 3-4 rounds will become key. How quickly can that new addition step up and be counted on to make an impact, and can the rest of the group hold up their end?

Plaxico Burress was a fine addition late in the year for Mike Tomlin but he was used sparingly also and given his age, 35, he’s not going to be a special teamer like normal 4th or 5th WR’s would be in Pittsburgh. Can they justify bringing him back as mainly a redzone target?

So many questions that will begin to be answered once free agency starts, and then the draft gets here in April. We’ve seen the Steelers pull off deals in the offseason many times but this Mike Wallace situation may just be their biggest to date, other than Roethlisberger’s contract,  if by a miracle they can make it happen.

I have to think, as a fan, that this team will be refocused in 2013 and that includes the receivers. A sub par year all around leaves more questions than answers, but sometimes that can be a good thing. Players take it upon themselves to improve in the offseason and take it personally when people question their ability. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing next year if you ask me.


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8 comments on “Once a strength, the Steelers Wide Receivers now a question mark?

  1. Our beloved team is in total disarray…..glad our owner has given up Obozo politics and come home to witness what’s happened to our championship team, our pro-bowl QB, and our ‘fantastic’ #1 rated defense. First Mr. Rooney, this bozo you hired as H/C to satisfy your own ‘Rooney Rule’ is a loser and a total bozo with lesser coaching skills than a mediocre high school coach. He took a championship team with championship assistant coaches and ran his course. As the players have aged and retired, the assistant coaches have left or their antiquated methods and game plans have faltered in the age of new rules, players, and smart minds, this bozo head coach has done nothing because he really knows nothing. When you listen to this pea-brain speak in his meaningless platitudes immediately you know that he’s an empty suit that’s in way over his head and really has not a clue. Our team is screwed until this fraud is out the door……really! Welcome back from Ireland Mr. Rooney. I pray that you’re not too weak of mind and body to set this team on the right direction!

  2. Mr. Doni609, your racist remark show your true colors,and if you look at our pro bowl QB it was his poor play and decision making is the reason we are not in the playoffs. When Mr. Rooney made the decision to hire coach Tomlin, I would like to think it was because he had the best interview and not because of a rule that for narrow minded pepole’s like yourself would like to believe. I love our QB don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t take a genus like yourself to see that Ben never brought into the offense. And by the way the previous head coach had many short coming seasons and no one ever called for his firing or called him a bozo you jackass. The true STEELERS FANS know the reason for this team not being in the playoffs.

  3. I agree with doni609 Tomlin is a hack, hes not a coach, lexamples, instead of punting trying to kick field goals out of suishams range, how many times has the team come out unprepared? undisciplined and unmotivated? consistant penalties, or repetitive penalties, that havent been corrected. Clearly this team is a team Tomlin lost complete control over. lack of focus on the receivers part, hell the whole team, it goes back to one person, and that person who is responsible for motivation, discipline, preperation, is Tomlin and Tomlin only, Ben didnt buy into the offense? really, he had good numbers up until he was hurt, they rushed him back to soon, it was obvious, no he isnt a coach, when they hired him he really didnt have much experience and now it shows, but iam sure some idiot will say iam racist because tomlin is black, this race card thing just doesnt fly anymore, if he was white id say the same thing, he sucks, lacks and needs to go.

  4. Mike Tomlin is not going anywhere! I guess it is timne for some of you fair weather fans to find another team. Take the god with the bad that is football you will not and cannot win every year. Did the team compete and show up? Yes most of the time they did they really were only out of one game San Deigo. The coach can and should motivate and prepare the team but he cannot be responsible for execution that is up to the players and we lacked that as a team far too much. We missed the playoffs 3 consecutive years under Cowher and I never heard so much banter about getting rid of a coach. So rest easy or go find another team, a true Steeler fan knows the deal, we will be back stronger than ever next year this I promise!

  5. Why is it when anyone questions Mike Tomlins LACK of coaching expertise, it is termed ‘racist’?? And to whomever said about Cowher getting a free-ride, you must not have been a Steeler fan too long, because there were quite a few people calling for his head in his last few seasons–I guess that is reverse-racism then, huh? Tomlin is a complete hack that can’t talk without using every cliche in the book–‘splash plays’, ‘AFC North Football’, “NFL Outfit”, “Next Man in Line”, etc. How about him using more COACHING techniques, and less politician-speak. Tomlins tenure was lived from a great Defensive Cooridinator, and very good (as we are seeing now) Offensive Coordinator (Arians). Tomlin has been nothing but a delegator, and now you are seeing the effects of his lack of heading coaching experience. What do you all think would happen if Lebeau left? You would REALLY see that Tomlin is in way over his head.

  6. The recent decline may be attributed to different opinions. However, the Steeler’s failure with their receivers this year stems from their emphasis on running the ball more than passing. Unfortunately, the injury star running back Mendenhall, and his very slow recovery hampered their running attack. If anything it showed a lack of superior bench strength at this position except for flashes by Dwyer and Redman. The Steeler’s strategy to keep the offense on the field so they would “control the ball and eat up the clock” (and keep Big Ben off his back) was paramont so the aging defensive players could be as rested and refreshed as possible when they were on the field. In return he opposing team’s defense would get exhausted being on the field for so long. That is what Haley’s offensive plays were supposed to achieve. We know how that ended. The receivers had fewer opportunities and resulted in fewer catches as their dramatic decline from 2010 shows.

  7. When I listen to some of the comments by some of these idiots like Doni609 and Dr Doom, it really solidifies what most people are saying around the world about the country we live in. Most Americans are still ignorant; we judge people by the color of their skin and not by their character. Now first allow me to say this; I’ve read some harsh comments on a lot of posts towards Bill Cowher as well, and by the way, he’s caucassion, lol. So, most of the comments aren’t racial folks; as a matter of fact, I would agree with a lot of things I’ve read about Tomlin this year. He made quite a few questionable calls; Hey Coach! Stop making decisions based on your gutt, start making decisions based on common coaching knowledge 101.

    I agree with most, Tomlin needs to stop playing favorites and being a coach across the board. I’m sick of watching him grin when his players make mistakes on the field, it makes me sick! He better get it together, I think he will too. For starters, he needs to get rid of a couple of cancers spreading throughout the locker room, Mendenhall and Wallace. I like the threat Wallace gives the team at the WR Position, but he has to go. He clearly doesn’t want to be in Todd Halley’s Offense, and I think one of the reasons is due to the QB. Yes! He too has become a problem, especially each time he opens up his stupid A$$ Mouth to speak to the media.

  8. For the record, I’ve never once brought race into this at all. Tomlin’s faults in coaching are hardly due to his skin color. His issues stem from sticking with old veterans too long, not making in game adjustments, bad decisions at critical times with field goals and 4th downs, things of that nature.

    Will it change, honestly I don’t know. Maybe this year was the last straw and we’ll see a new Steelers team in 2013, but I’m not holding my breath.

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