I started this in the overview thinking it would just be between the 3,4 and 5 guys battling for spot. It looks as though it goes all the way to the Number 2 receiver. There is going to be a battle between these guys for every spot on the receiving corp. There are 7 guys for what normally is 5 spots. There have been times when the Steelers have kept receivers and this possibly could be one of those years.
Mike Wallace seems to have locked down the number 1 receiver role even as much as people still like to pretend that Hines is the guy. He may be the most known but he is no longer the number one guy. He is going to have to battle to be the number 2 guy with Emmanuel Sanders. That role is also still up in the air. Neither one has practiced though so it is Antonio Brown who is getting the second team reps.
Hines Ward- Ward has been the best Steelers receiver of all time. He has played with some great players and put up some big numbers. He owns every record the Steelers have at the Wide Receiver position. He is coming on his latter years of his career and he has some competition not for the number one spot which has already been taken over by Mike Wallace but for the number 2 receiver. That will come down to him and Sanders.
Ward has lost a step but still plays his ass off and knows how to find a hole in the defense when Roethlisberger scrambles. Ward does not have the same ability to get open like he used to. Hines had the 3rd lowest total of his career in catches in 2010. The other 2 were his rookie year and his third year, well before he was the guy he became for this team. Ward also had the lowest number of receiving yards he had since 2007 where he only played 13 games.
Ward may stay in the starting line up to start the season but he will not finish there. The Steelers may end up in many 3 wide receiver sets to keep Ward in the game. He has been passed though by the young guys. It has been a great 13 year career but for the Steelers to move forward with the offense Sanders has to come into play.
Emmanuel Sanders- Sanders had a great rookie season. You do not normally see Wide Receivers touch the field as rookies especially with veterans like Ward and Antwaan Randle El on the field. The Steelers like familiarity and guys like Sanders normally play Special Teams and that is about it. For him to break into the starting lineup in week 17 for this team is a huge sign of what Sanders has been able to do.
Sanders is on the sidelines right now still rehabbing the foot he injured in the Super Bowl. He has been unable to take advantage of Ward not being on the field with a thumb injury. Sanders had the golden opportunity to take Wardís spot and not ever look back. With the injury that has slowed his ability to do that. If he can get on the field shortly he should still take the position.
Antonio Brown- Brown started off last season on Special Teams. He made big plays in his second game. He scored a touchdown on a kick return. He is a splash play guy. Brown played spot duty throughout the season. He made his biggest contributions in the playoffs against the Jets in the AFC Championship game. He caught a deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger for a big gain where he made the catch with his head. Then caught a third down pass to finish the Jets off on a Roethlisberger scramble.
Brown should be the number 4 receiver coming into the season. He is playing with the first team right now as Ward and Sanders are down with injuries. He is making plays but still has some learning to do. He misses hot reads and does not break off routes when the QB gets in trouble. This kid will be a big play guy but he is still a year away from being that number 3 receiver.
Arnaz Battle- Battle has no place on this team as a receiver. He was passed up by Brown and Sanders quickly last season as the team wanted to have both guys on the field. Battle was on the roster to make the Special Teams unit better. Which he did beautifully. Battle has a cap number that does not favor his chances of making the team. Battle could very well become a casualty of the youth of this team coming to life. He will be fighting with Sweed and Grisham for the last spot on the roster. His Special Teams ability could push him over the top if the other 2 do not make plays in the preseason.
Limas Sweed- Sweed has not shown the promise that this team hoped for him to show when they drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft. Sweed has suffered from injuries, depression, eye surgery and drops. Sweed has not been able to make the impact that was expected of him. Most would consider him a bust.
I can not give up on Sweed yet though. Sweed has had his problems. He has made his mistakes but when he is on the field he has the ability to be a great receiver. He runs amazing routes and is always open. If he can get over the drops and can keep himself healthy I still think he could surprise some and live up to the pick the Steelers drafted him at. Even if it is not with the Steelers.
Tyler Grisham- Grisham has been with this team for a few years now and always ends up on the practice squad. This kid has put in the time with this team and is deserving of a shot. All you hear is how he catches everything and knows what is going on. He has had the misfortune of the Steelers drafting Sanders and Brown. He is a long shot but if put out there he can show what he is capable of.
The Steelers have also been taking a look at Free Agents. The team brought in Plaxico Burress for a visit and now are reportedly bringing in Jericho Cotchery for a visit. This is a deep team at receiver but they are injured and that could cost some of these guys a job. If Ward and Sanders canít get back quickly a guy like Cotchery could make this team because we need him and then someone like Sweed or Battle could get the axe once those two return from injury.
Here is how I see the depth chart for the Steelers at Wide Receiver.