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Old 06-10-2005, 01:03 AM   #1
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Post Competition at WR should be fierce

By Bob Labriola
Steelers.com

It?s one of the few areas on the team where an offseason loss created an opening in the starting lineup, but ironically it?s also one of the deepest areas on the depth chart.


Plaxico Burress was a starting wide receiver dating back to his rookie season of 2000, but he?s now employed by the New York Giants. That means the spot opposite Hines Ward is available, and the competition for that job will be fierce. But so will the competition for each of the roster spots to be allocated to wide receivers during the 2005 season.


How many receivers will be on the final roster? Figure on five for sure, maybe six. But this is only the off-season, and a roster?s configuration can be affected by a variety of factors between now and the day the Steelers have to cut down to 53 players.


?I don?t think there?s any doubt this is a highly competitive group right now,? said wide receivers coach Bruce Arians. ?To say who gets to stay from (roster spots) four to six, we?ll have to cut some guys who can play in this league. Zamir Cobb?s coming back, and he had an outstanding camp last year.?


When Arians refers to the competition for the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 spots on the depth chart, he?s assuming that the first three spots will go to Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El and Cedrick Wilson; their performances in minicamp and coaching sessions have reinforced that opinion.


Ward is the only receiver in franchise history to post four 1,000-yard seasons and to be voted to four Pro Bowls. As has been his history, Ward is a fixture at all offseason workouts, and he has done so this year as negotiations for a contract extension continue.


Randle El has made an amazingly smooth and quick transformation from being a one-man offense as an option quarterback at Indiana to an NFL wide receiver. Because he was a slot receiver during each of his first two NFL seasons, there were questions whether Randle El could be productive as a starter. But in the four games Burress missed with a hamstring injury last year, Randle El averaged 20.6 yards on each of his 13 receptions; during coaching sessions Randle El punctuated the session by making a fine grab of a pass 40 yards downfield from Ben Roethlisberger.


Wilson was the most significant veteran addition of this offseason, and he has had his impressive moments already. When he signed with the Steelers, Wilson said his ability to get deep comes from stop-and-start quickness, and he has flashed that at times, to go along with sure hands and crisp route-running.


Those three guys have starting NFL experience, and that serves to separate them from the pack. But for the Steelers this year, that pack has some talent.

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Old 06-10-2005, 01:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: Competition at WR should be fierce

Not sure about this one. El or probably wilson, hope others step up. I am thinking that we won`t have the best pair of receivers in the league, no matter who wins out. But we could look pretty good 4 or 5 deep.
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