It seems that most talk throughout NFL circuits is of how the lockout has impacted the injury rate of players returning to the field. The Steelers are no stranger to the injury bug either, as Kim pointed out so well in her last article.
Yet with various injuries plaguing NFL teams across the board, there are positives that can be taken from the beginning stages of training camp.
One player who has really taken advantage of more playing time is Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. Hines Ward, who was recently activated off the PUP list, missed the beginning stages of training camp, and second year receiver Emmanuel Sanders remains sidelined with a nagging foot injury. Throw in the release of receiver Antwaan Randle El, and Brown has had the spotlight solely on him throughout training camp.
Brown said the opportunity to practice as Ben Roethlisberger’s No. 2 receiver has been a golden opportunity. Of course Brown has been in Roethlisberger’s favor after his now infamous 3rd down catch to defeat the Ravens in the playoffs last season. In what will be his second season in a Steeler uniform, Brown is poised to have a break out year.
While his statistics last season are not overwhelming, 16 receptions for 167 yards, Brown looks strong in the early stages of training camp, and with the third receiver slot still up for grabs, it could be Brown’s to lose.
The Steelers did not make any moves to enhance its receiving core, a move many players on the team applauded feeling the team was strong enough at that position already. After losing out on Plaxico Burress to the Jets, the Steelers held a meeting with former Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. It does not appear the team is going to sign Cotchery either, so it seems as though the team is complacent with the receiving corps on the field.
Eventually Sanders will heal, and Hines will be his productive self. Mike Wallace has claimed he will have a 2,000 yard season, and Brown is set to have a break out year. Oh yeah… and then there is Limas Sweed. I believe the Steelers receivers will be fine this year, propelling Roethlisberger to another great season.