Brown and WRs key to explosive offense for Steelers

By Gerry Dulac 7 years ago


This is the third in a series as we look at the five positions that will hold the key to the 2015 season that begins Sept. 10 in New England. We will provide a general rundown, identify the strength and weakness and pick the one player who is ready to have a breakout season.

Today: No. 3, Wide receiver

Todd Haley’s offense was one of the most productive and balanced in NFL history in 2014

After all, it was the first time a quarterback, running back and wide receiver each finished first or second in the league in their statistical category. And one of the prime reasons was Antonio Brown, who compiled one of the greatest seasons for a wide receiver in league history and combined with Le’Veon Bell to account for 60 percent of the offense.

Despite his size, Brown has not only shown he can be a No. 1 receiver, he became the first Steelers player to lead the league in receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698). What’s more, his 13 touchdown catches set a franchise record.

But it’s not just Brown. The Steelers have three young, talented receivers to go with him.

The best is Brown’s big-play partner, Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who didn’t dress for the first six games but quickly became one of the best rookie receivers in the last eight games.

Bryant used his size (6-4, 217) and long stride to catch eight touchdowns and average 21.1 yards in the last eight games. He also had a touchdown catch in the playoff loss to the Ravens. That has taken some of the attention off Brown.

Markus Wheaton, a third-round pick in 2013, showed lots of development in his second season with 53 catches for 644 yards and two touchdowns. And they added to the stable by taking stud receiver Sammie Coates on the third round of the draft.

Coates can be another Bryant. He had a reputation for having bad hands at Auburn, but so did Bryant. And you see how that worked out. Coates has the size, speed and hops to be a top-end receiver. OK, so he dropped the ball 19 percent of the time in college. That means he caught four of the five balls thrown his way. The Steelers can live with those odds, especially what they see Coates did after he caught the ball.

STRENGTHS: Antonio Brown might be the most dangerous receiver in the league, and he has three young and very talented guys behind him.

WEAKNESSES: Experience in key situations would appear to be the biggest issue, especially if something happened to Brown.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Bryant. It’s hard to say a guy who caught nine touchdowns and averaged 21.1 yards per catch as a rookie will have a breakout season. But he didn’t dress for the first six games. Imagine what he can do in 16 games?

NEXT: Defensive line