Martavis Bryant rejoined his teammates Friday after serving his four-game drug suspension, and it’s not a moment too soon for the Steelers, whose anemic passing game was one of the many reasons they fell to the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night, 23-20, in overtime at Heinz Field.
New quarterback Mike Vick, subbing for injured Ben Roethlisberger, threw for just 124 yards, the fewest in a game for the Steelers since September 19, 2010, when they managed just 21 in a 19-11 victory in Tennessee. Backups Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon played quarterback for the Steelers that game while Roethlisberger was serving a four-game suspension.
Bryant, who had 26 receptions for 549 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, should help Vick immensely. The Ravens double-teamed All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown and held him to five receptions for 42 yards.
Vick and Bryant didn’t play together much in the preseason, but when they did it was spectacular, the story claims. In Vick’s first game with the Steelers against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth preseason game, his first pass was a 63-yarder to Bryant. Later in the drive, Bryant drew a pass-interference penalty in the end zone that set up a touchdown. In one half, Bryant finished with three receptions from Vick for 138 yards. The hope is Bryant's presence could also prevent double teams on Brown. Overall, Bryant's return should mean good news for the Steelers offense.
But things are about to change for the Steelers. And change for the better.
The Steelers offense is about to get stronger, and then perhaps even scary in Week 5 when WR Martavis Bryant returns. For Bell owners, Williams has proved his value as a handcuff so it may be a good idea to keep him around. Williams' play may also earn him a little more time on the field and the Steelers may not have to ride Bell as hard as they did last year. The return of Bell could mean Antonio Brown sees more one-on-one matchups.
And the Steelers have Roethlisberger, who is coming off a 4,952-yard, 32-touchdown season. Roethlisberger, who attempted 608 passes last year, will be called upon to carry the offensive load.
Behind Williams, the Steelers are so thin, they have moved H-back/tight end Will Johnson into the running back room as the No. 3 option behind change-of-pace back Dri Archer, who has 10 career rushing attempts.
"When you have No. 7 and a guy like 84 [Brown], anything is possible," Johnson said. "We can go as far as we want."
It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Steelers be pass-happy in Week 1 with no Bell in the lineup. That's great news for owners of Roethlisberger, Brown and Wheaton especially, as the season kicks off this Thursday night. Ben is ranked seventh among our QBs this week in what is a pretty good matchup against the Pats.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015, 2:46pm
The Pittsburgh Steelers have created nearly $6 million of cap room for this season after restructuring the contracts of receiver Antonio Brown, tight end Heath Miller and kicker Shaun Suisham on Tuesday, league sources told ESPN.
The Steelers plan to use the majority of the extra cap room to offset the large number of injured players who have been counting against the team's salary cap.
The move is expected to end Brown's contract demands for now. Sources tell ESPN that the Steelers, in a rare move for the team, moved up $2 million of Brown's salary into a signing bonus for this season, sources told ESPN. The restructuring raises Brown's salary from $6 million to $8 million this season.
When Ben Roethlisberger speaks, Pittsburgh listens. So when the two-time Super Bowl champion predicts a breakout star, it's worth paying attention.
Most of the Steelers talk heading into the 2015 season has been about Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell and Martavis Bryant, but Roethlisberger believes a different player will steal the headlines offensively this season.
"I think Markus Wheaton is our breakout player of the year," Roethlisberger said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. "I want that. I want him to have that pressure. Because when we're in two wide receivers, he's our No. 2. And we're asking him to play outside. And we go three wide receivers, we ask him to move inside."
Wheaton, a third-year pro out of Oregon State, has recorded 59 receptions for 708 yards and two touchdowns in his first two seasons.
It was widely believed Bryant, not Wheaton, would line up opposite Brown to start the season in two-wide sets. But it appears Bryant will miss some time with an infection in his elbow. This could cause a bit of a rankings shakeup among the Steeler WRs and is definitely something to watch during camp and heading into the season. Bryant was our 18th ranked WR while Wheaton wasn't even getting drafted in 12-team leagues. Bryant also put up fringe WR2 numbers while only playing 60-percent of the snaps.
The Steelers set team record in points, first downs, and yards per game, powered by the superstar trio of Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The quarterback -- who reported to training camp with teammates on Saturday -- sees no reason why Pittsburgh can't top those numbers.
"We want to start fast and we want to be able to put 30 points on the board in every game," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday.
Roethlisberger has strong belief in his supporting cast, from Bell and Brown, to an improved offensive line, the story said. Roethlisberger is now 33, but he's coming off his two best statistical seasons of his career. We're buying in on the Steelers this year, too, as Big Ben jumps to sixth on our QB list and is looking like a great option to target in the middle rounds of drafts. Brown is our top WR, and despite a suspension, Bell is among our best RBs.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 11:57am
After spending the last four years trying to make it as an NFL quarterback, Terrelle Pryor is now in Cleveland, trying to make it as a wide receiver. He says he has the talent not just to earn a roster spot, but to be a great wide receiver.
“I believe I can get great at anything,” Pryor told KDKA. “Just need the reps and just got to prove it.”
Pryor said he has the work ethic that only the great ones have.
“There’s not a lot of guys who work like I work,” he said. “I truly believe that. I believe somebody who works extremely hard is Antonio Brown. Definitely I’ve worked with him, I have had to opportunity to work out with him an awful lot. We spent a lot of time together in 2011 down in Florida, so I saw his work ethic. The drive, the nights we would run in the sand along the ocean, run 6 miles every night.”
We had a story on this item last week. Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot said there just may not be enough time for Pryor to learn all the details involved in the transition from QB to WR, but that it was definitely worth a shot to try and convert Pryor.
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was a week from returning to the Vikings' roster after a three-game suspension for drunken driving, when ESPN reported on Sept. 18 that Simpson had been cited in July for misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving with an open bottle. The Vikings released Simpson later that day, and signed Charles Johnson off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad the next day.
It seemed at the time like a move to replenish the Vikings' wide receiver depth with a known commodity -- quarterbacks coach Scott Turner had been Johnson's position coach the previous year in Cleveland -- but Johnson was less than a year removed from knee surgery, and didn't play more than 20 snaps in a game until Nov. 16. From that point on, though, he caught 25 passes for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and supplanted Cordarrelle Patterson as the team's "X" receiver.
"He was recovering from that knee surgery a year ago and I don't know that he was ever 100 percent," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "I think he's 100 percent. He's got great work ethic, and he's a big, strong guy. He's a 218-pound receiver that can run. He's got everything you need to be a productive player in this league."
In organized team activities and minicamp, there was no mystery about where Johnson figured in the Vikings' plans, the story went on to say. He was lined up at split end all spring, and teamed with Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright in the team's three receiver sets. According to ESPN, 33 of Johnson's 58 targets were at least 10 yards downfield, and 13 of those 58 were 20 or more yards downfield. Johnson worked out in Southern California with Bridgewater and a number of the Vikings' receivers this offseason, and also spent time in Houston with Rischad Whitfield, the "Footwork King" who has counted Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins among his clients. Johnson is one of 4for4.com Senior Editor John Paulsen's potential sleepers this year. We rank him 37th on our WR list and he looks to be in a good situation with the offense under OC Norv Turner and a developing QB in Bridgewater.
Monday, June 29, 2015, 8:22am
Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller is a No. 3 or 4 option for the offense but nothing more.
He might’ve been a 1,000-yard receiver as a 25-year-old in Haley’s offense. Miller’s scoring rate is concerning. After 27 touchdowns in his first five years, Miller has 16 in his last five, for an average of 3.2 per year. He surpassed three scores in one of those five seasons.
The Steelers placed a waiver claim for tight end Tim Wright, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. When coupled with reported interest in second-round tight end Maxx Williams during the draft, the Wright claim indicates the franchise is at least exploring tight end alternatives.
The story went on to say Miller isn’t an elite tight end but he’s still very solid. He can put up 600 yards in this offense at age 32. And the truth is the Steelers still need him. He’s a safety valve for QB Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, we predict Miller for 588 yards and just under 3 TDs for 2015. However he's ranked 20th on our list and likely won't get a lot of draft attention in typical leagues. With Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell and Martavis Bryant, that's a strong core of talent to monopolize the red zone touches.
A quick canvas of the league revealed 10 No. 1-caliber receivers: Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffrey, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, DeMaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown.
Robinson, the Jaguars’ second-year receiver, is below that level, but on this team at this moment, he’s the best.
Robinson averaged 5.2 catches for 61 yards and 0.22 TD from Week 2 to Week 10, which extrapolates to an 84-974-3.6 over the course of a full 16-game season. He posted fringe WR2-type numbers before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. The Jacksonville receiving corps should feature Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. If QB Blake Bortles can progress, this could be a dangerous passing game, and Robinson would be the primary beneficiary.
“It was just something I felt like I needed to do,” Bryant said. “Just to add a different aspect to my game of being physical, being bigger.”
Bryant said he is focusing on mastering the “Z” receiver spot that places him on the outside on the strong side of the field. However, Mann said in three-receiver sets Bryant and third-year receiver Markus Wheaton would be “interchangeable” between the “Z” and the slot.
Bryant figures to be a bigger part of the offense this season. He averaged 30 snaps per game in 2014.
“He's always been strong, but to be honest with you his conditioning is way better now,” Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “That's what we look at — and me being his big bro, I tell him, ‘You gotta work on your conditioning.' And he came back in way better condition than he was last year. “You can be fast — but you need to be fast 10 plays in a row, not just two.”
One of the concerns with Bryant is playing time, but it appears that he's distanced himself from Wheaton and is in line for starter's snaps opposite Antonio Brown. He averaged 2.8 catches for 56 yards and 0.82 TD in the final 11 games of the season (including a 5-61-1 outing against Baltimore in the playoffs). Thanks to the incredible touchdown rate, those are high-end WR2 numbers in standard formats and solid WR2 numbers in PPR. Increased playing time should offset any drop in TD rate. We like Bryant to break out in 2015.
The Saints wide receiver ranked second in the NFL in catch percentage among wide receivers playing in 25 percent of the snaps in 2014 by Pro Football Focus.
Drew Brees targeted Cooks 65 times with the wideout tallying 53 receptions. Only two of those missed opportunities were drops by Cooks. Brees also compiled a 110.9 quarterback rating when throwing to Cooks.
Brown's 129 catches came on 178 targets, resulting in a 72.5 completion percentage when targeted. The Steelers' stud receiver led the NFL in completion percentage when ranking the players taking at least 50 percent of the snaps in 2014.
The article discusses how Cooks has gone to Brown for advice about becoming a better wide receiver. Through Week 11, Cooks was the #22 WR in PPR formats and #25 in standard scoring systems. He caught at least five passes in seven of 10 games, and is likely to lead the Saints in targets with Jimmy Graham no longer on the roster. Solid WR2 numbers are well within reach, and Cooks could conceivably finish as a WR1 in PPR leagues.
"From what I saw on tape, I think we got a guy that needs some work but is a great athlete. He has good speed and can take the top off of the coverage. He’s a guy who can track the ball down field very well. He has some problems straight ahead catching a football but that’s why we have drills. With a chance to coach him up, we feel like we can make that better. The thing that you can’t coach up is his athleticism."
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown didn’t report to the start of the team’s offseason conditioning work along with his teammates and his absence was tied to a report that he was looking for a new contract and mulling an extended absence that could lead him to miss mandatory work at both minicamp and training camp. Brown chimed in later in the week to say that he was hanging out with his new child and was looking forward to getting back to work with the team.
The wait for his return to the team’s facility wasn’t a particularly long one. The Steelers posted some pictures from Monday’s workout session and Brown is among the featured players.
There was a report that Brown was planning to hold out for a new contract, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Counting the playoffs, Brown has caught at least five passes and/or a touchdown in 38 straight games. He followed up a #3 finish in PPR formats in 2013 with a #1 finish (in both PPR and standard formats) last season. He’s an extremely safe pick in the first round of PPR drafts and is currently the first receiver off the board in early best ball drafts.
Brown has three years remaining on his current contract which will pay him an average of $7.65 million per season. Holdouts are never good, so this is a situation to monitor this offseason. Brown was the #1 receiver in PPR formats in 2014 after finishing #3 the year before.
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