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Mike Tomlin on Steelers backup receivers: “It depends on the day”

Those aren’t exactly the words you want to hear when you’re trying to find players who are going to be competent enough and productive enough to help the Steelers offense this year.  As a fan, even if it is in training camp and the preseason, you’d like to hear atleast some type of semblance of a compliment about someone, anyone, right?

Everybody knows “the big 3″ for the Steelers this year, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery. If Todd Haley features those players in pass pattersn this season and they all stay healthy for the entire year then things are probably going to go pretty well. If one of them goes down for any length of time or Todd Haley has packages in  his offense that call for 4 or 5 receivers then who do you go to? Chris Rainey perhaps? That might be an option to explore regardless of who’s playing at wide out.

So who’s really ready to step up behind the big 3? The answer right now is, “it depends on the day”. Nobody knows at this point just who is ready to assume the position as the 4th and 5th receivers on this team?

Oh, yeah we know we haven’t mentioned Mike Wallace. The obligatory, “Wallace is reporting soon” comments are still alive and well but even if and when he does show up the team is still going to keep at least 5 receivers on the roster so there’s still an open spot on this group. Do they keep six? That might all depend on if there’s someone worthy at this point.

Anyway, the 2nd tier players behind the starters right now are as follows:

David Gilreath, Derrick Williams, Toney Clemons, Jimmy Young, Tyler Beiler, Paul Cox, Marquis Maze, and Juamorris Stewart. Most of those players have made at least a few catches to turn some heads in training camp but so far none has separated themselves much at all.

If you listen to the chatter coming out in Twitter during practices at St. Vincent College, you’ll hear the occasional “Nice catch” by Toney Clemons, David Gilreath, and Derrick Williams. You’ll then hear the, “wow he dropped an easy one” about those same players. Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley and Recievers Coach Scottie Montgomery are looking for more than the occasional nice catch or solid route from these guys. They are going to depend on them at some point during the season, that’s almost inevitable. No team can go through the entire season without someone pulling a hamstring, twisting an ankle or getting their bell rung by a Safety coming at them at a hundred miles an hour.

Wallace coming back will help ease that burden for whoever makes the final roster but you still want someone ready and waiting should the need arise.

In the preseason opener against the Eagles, RB Chris Rainey actually lead all receivers with 2 catches for 65 yds and 1 TD. Behind him, talking about the backups here:

Tyler Beiler: 1 catch, 30 yds.

That’s about it. The rest of the receptions, few as they were, came from tight ends and the starters. To be fair, Ben Roethlisberger played only couple series in that game, and the rest of the game the backups at all positions were in, including 1st year QB Jerrod Johnson who played most of the second quarter.

So it’s not as if the receiving opportunities were all that plentiful but still, you want somebody to have at least more than 1 catch from your receivers right? The Quarterbacks went a combined 13/19 in that game so yes again, I agree there wasn’t that many opportunities but when you look at it there’s 19 chances in that game for somebody to get open, to run the right route, to make the catch.

For what it’s worth if I had to go by what’s happened in camp so far; Williams, Gilreath, Clemmons, and Beiler have shown the most promise to date and are probably the ones with the slightest edge right now. Marquis Maze is a talented return man and could find a spot there on the team. Would I want to count on any of them to start a game or be a 3rd WR at this point? Nope.

There’s still plenty of time left, with 3 preseason games for somebody, hopefully more than one person to separate themselves. Time is of the essence though, the NFL waits for nobody so here’s seeing someone seize the day against Indianapolis on Sunday.


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