Good read on "deep threat"....
Camp watch No. 3: Plax-less offense
By Chris Kucharski
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Over the 5 days leading up to the first practice, we will look at the top 5 things to keep an eye on at Steelers Training Camp.
Deep threat step up, please
Plaxico Burress was a nice compliment to Hines Ward in the Steelers passing game, but he never achieved the success the team envisioned when they drafted him eighth overall in 2000.
However, he was productive at times and that production needs to be replaced.
The biggest issue with the departure of Burress was he was supposedly the deep threat. But that might be because that was the way the Steelers used him. Replacing him could be easier than most people think.
When Burress missed those four meaningful games in the second half of last season, Hines Ward's catch total dropped from 5.5 per game to 4.5 per game, but his average yards per catch went up from 11.5 to 16.3.
Antwaan Randle El was Burress' replacement in those four games (WAS, JAC, NYJ, NYG) and averaged 3.3 catches per game and 20.62 yards per catch. Burress' numbers in the 11 games he started: 3.2 catches per game and 19.9 average per catch.
These are just numbers and might not translate into anything. But they could be a sign that Burress never really was the deep threat some made him out to be.
Besides Randle El, Cedric Wilson will also get a chance to get some of those catches. Although Randle El will be the starter in camp, that might not be the case when the regular season begins. He might be the starter only when they come out of the tunnel. Wilson might be the second receiver in two-receiver sets.
Rookie Fred Gibson will not be a factor unless he is the fourth receiver or there is an injury.
The X-factor in all of this is Heath Miller. Of course, Miller is a tight end, but how will his presence on the field affect the other receivers? Burress never had a pass-catching tight end to open up the middle of the field and draw safeties to cover the tight end. The result could be more opportunities downfield.
The Steelers won't show their hand in camp because they run a vanilla offense throughout the preseason. But keep an eye on the rotation in two-receiver sets and open sets with Miller lined up in a slot or as a split end. It serve as an indicator that the tight end position will not be a dead end position as far as the passing game is concerned.
The trickle-down effect from this development could create more deep threats than the Steelers have had in a long time.