The 53 man roster is set, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have six wide receivers and three tight ends ready to take the field in Week 1. Ben Roethlisberger now has more weapons than James Bond after using the ‘All Gun’ cheat code in Goldeneye. All of these guys are good receivers, and each bring something somewhat unique to the table. Has Mike Tomlin picked the right amount of guys for Big Ben to use, or will Jaws get the best of our hero? (Jaws being Terrell Suggs…. but Suggs is much uglier than Jaws) Could it be that Roethlisberger has too many weapons?
Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Arnaz Battle, Heath Miller, David Johnson and Weslye Saunders are their names. And, they are ready to catch anything and everything Big Ben has to throw their way. They are a force to be reckoned with, and defenses will be hard pressed to effectively cover practically any combination of these receivers.
Mike Wallace, aka Wallace Da Kid, is lighting fast and is a tall target for Ben to throw the deep balls to. He is explosive and is a threat on every single down. He can go and get the jump ball too should #7 decide to throw into the corner once inside the red zone. He caught over 1000 yards last season and is predicting to reach 2000 this year. It’s a confidence that you need from your #1 receiver to help instill a bit more intimidation into the #1 corner assigned to him.
Hines ‘Twinkle Toes’ Wardis the veteran of the group and is a leader on the field through his toughness, hard physical play and spirit. His sure hands make him a very dependable target – he drops less than 10 balls a season. He will run across the middle without fear and seems to taunt the other team’s LB’s with his infectious smile to ‘bring it on.’ He’s always been a favorite target for Big Ben and looks to reach some milestones this year.
Antonio ‘CUEUPU’ Brown gained a mystique about himself last season with some electrifying and clutch catches. He continued that trend this preseason with a solid camp performance and a big game against Atlanta. He’s still young – makes some mistakes and get what he calls ‘too excited’ that lands him in hot water with some unsportsmanlike penalties. But, he is another speed receiver that will make things very difficult for secondaries if he and Wallace are on the field at the same time.
Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Sanders is the other youngin on the receiver roster. After overcoming some lingering injuries, he will be a fourth or fifth option for Big Ben in the big receiver sets. He could be swapped out to go outside to inside or the other way. Ward, Wallace or Brown need a breather? Manny’s got it covered but will be hard to cover once the ball is snapped.
Jerricho ‘Mayor’ Cotchery is the lone receiver picked up in FA. He is going to be very useful in four receiver sets and will be effective in finding the open holes in zone defenses. He has great hands as he showed during his tenure with the Jets. I see him getting some good reps in when the Steelers reach the red zone and could be the key to the Steelers’ red zone blues from years past.
Arnaz ‘Major’ Battlewent from zero catches in 2010 to team captain of the special teams in 2011. Not likely a big weapon for #7, and more than likely will not be used much unless the offense goes over four wide and Wallace and Brown just ran two deep routes in a row… do you get the sense of how desperate they might be to use him? I just didn’t want to leave him out for all you nitpickers out there.
Heath ‘Big Money’ Miller is the vet TE. Still one of Ben’s favorite outlets (he caught 72 passes in 2009!), Heath is a big boy with very good hands for a TE. He averages over 40 catches a season. He’s great at shielding his intent on delayed routes and is able to find himself open in short crossing routes. There’s rarely ever a deep route given to him, so his average only 10 yards per catch. Nothing to sniff at when it’s 3rd and 8.
David Johnson moves up to the second spot on the TE roster after the release of Matt Spaeth. It was difficult for the team to find a replacement for Spaeth, but to give Johnson some credit, he’s only been with the team for two seasons with little in the way of passes thrown in his direction. That might still be the case with all the options Ben has. There’s a strong chance that the Steelers don’t use many two TE sets and then throw the ball. Nonetheless, he’s still a big body that needs defendin’.
Weslye Saunders is the rookie TE for the Steelers who more than likely just made the cut. There’s not much to say about this rookie so I won’t. He may get reps he may not. Depends on Miller’s and Johnson’s health throughout the season. Weapon? Maybe. Someone to use to look off coverage. More than likely.
And there they are. Potentially 7 (not counting Battle and Saunders) big weapons for #7. Lots to choose from. But, is that group too many weapons for Roethlisberger? There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Will Ben take even more time in the pocket or scrambling trying to find the right guy to throw to? I think it’s obvious that he has his ‘go to’ dependable guys that he likes to throw to when it really counts. Will he be able to do that this year as well? Will Arians effectively manage the offense with good play selection that will utilize these guys for some big scores? I think there is the real rub. Arians has shown time and time again that he makes odd selections at odd times. Ben wants more control and should get it. I don’t doubt that Ben will be able to look through the see of chaos out on the field and find the guy he needs to hit for a first down or for the big play. What I’m more dubious of is having faith in Arians’ ability to run this offense as the high scoring machine it can be. It will be interesting to see how the first few weeks pan out. Week 1 against the Ravens will be a difficult test as the Ravens’ D is tough and presses our receivers effectively. But wouldn’t it be great if the gates just opened up and the Ratbirds got put over Big Ben’s knee and spanked?
It will be a fun and exciting ride this season should the air attack really click. Let’s just hope Arians can manage this well, get creative and give Ben the ability to work his magic.
What are your thoughts about having too many good receivers to choose from?