In the summer of 2012, Mike Wallace turned down a 5 year, 42 million dollar contract extension, which the Steelers then offered to Antonio Brown.
If Mike Wallace had signed that extension, Antonio Brown would be lighting it up in another city.
…and Mike Wallace would be in Pittsburgh making us pull out our hair due to drops.
Antonio Brown was the most consistent receiver in the NFL this season, and despite his lack of size, is a dangerous #1 option in the passing game.
After that… It gets a little bit rough.
Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are both set to hit unrestricted free agency. I feel very confident in saying Sanders leaves, and Cotchery returns.
It seems like a decade ago that Sanders was drafted a full 3 rounds before teammate Antonio Brown, and appeared to be the better receiver in training camp.
Coach Tomlin loudly told anyone within earshot that Sanders and Brown were competing for one hat on game day. I’d say that competition is over.
Cotchery lead the team in touchdowns this season with 10 and became Ben’s most reliable target when Antonio Brown saw more attention from defenses.
Cotch has already said that at this point he just wants a ring, and he thinks he can get one in Pittsburgh. That tells me he’s not going to make any outrageous contract demands, so I can’t see him going anywhere.
At his age though, Cotchery is probably a 3rd option at best… Which means there’s a hole at the #2 spot.
Second year man Markus Wheaton didn’t see the field much as a rookie. I mentioned several times I wish he’d play more over the disappointing Sanders. However, the fact that he didn’t probably means he wasn’t showing it in practice.
I still have a lot of faith in Wheaton, and think he could end up being the Steelers’ best pick in the 2013 draft. At this point though, it’s hard to count on that.
For that reason, wide receiver has to be in play as early as round 1 in the 2014 draft. I personally would be on cloud 9 if the Steelers came away with Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, or Kelvin Benjamin at the 15th spot in round 1.
Watkins’ performance in the Orange Bowl probably put him out of reach for the Steelers. However, Big Ben has openly admitted since Plaxico Burress (who I don’t expect to be re-signed this off-season) left that he’s ached for a big receiver.
They don’t come much bigger than the 6’5″ 225 lbs. Evans and 6’5″ 235 lbs. Benjamin.
If not in the first round though, this is a pretty deep draft at the position, with some talented guys like Allen Robinson and Odell Beckham Jr. in the second round.
I also mentioned in an earlier write-up that the WR position is very deep this year in free agency… With several options the Steelers could look at without breaking the bank.
To round out the depth chart, you’ll likely see the same names as last season including Derrick Moye, Justin Brown, and J.D. Woods. One of those guys probably makes it based on their special teams contributions in pre-season.