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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Steelers 2010 - Pass Catchers

One player can certainly effect depth at a position. Of course, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes is gone. He'll be starting his new career with the Jets on a drug-related four game suspension. Ha! I can't imagine having a star player suspended for the first four games...
It starts with HINES WARD. You know, it's been a treat to watch his career. This guy has five of the top seven single season passes caught records for the Steelers and he's a solid #1 in all time catches, yards and TDs. Stallworth and Swann burned brighter, but Hines is the greatest receiver in team history.
With two more solid seasons, Ward will finish his career in the top 10 all time for catches, and already he trails only Marvin Harrison as the all time catches leader to only play for one team. He's going to be a borderline Hall of Famer.
Ward is 34 years old, but he's coming off a 95/1,167 year. Wow. If he can stay healthy, expect him to have another big year. And he's a team leader who gives 100% every play.
MIKE WALLACE moves up from #3 to #2 after a very nice rookie year. The fastest player on the team, he extends the field and keeps the safeties from creeping up for the run. Not that we run it much.... All indications are that Wallace kept a level head last year (he's no Plax) and will be a solid #2 receiver and make some more big plays deep.
ANTWAAN RANDLE EL is back! I loved El at Indiana and in his first run as a Steeler. Washington gave him big money to be the go-to guy, and that's not his role. If he gets back into the offensive scheme he should be the #3 guy, play in the slot and catch maybe 40 passes this year.
With Ward, Wallace and Miller getting more passes, Randle El can contribute at that number. I think bringing him back was a good move if he's still got it.
The Steelers passed on Texas star Jordan Shipley (the dude caught 205 passes over the past two years and is a good punt returner) to take EMMANUEL SANDERS out of SMU.
Now, SMU was a doormat program when June Jones left Hawaii to bring his high-octane offense to Dallas. SMU was 18-52 in the six years before Jones. After starting out 1-11, he was 8-5 last year and in a bowl. He had even greater success turning around Hawaii. He runs a  wide-open offense that lets QBs and WRs put up really big numbers, and that fit Sanders perfectly.
Sanders caught 98 passes his senior year and will be the second fastest receiver on the team. I think he's going to get some PT this year, early, and probably be given a chance to run back some kicks. He could really help with some rookie contribution.
You know, the Bengals took Quan Cosby and Shipley from Texas. We took Limas Sweed. Score on for their scouting department.
ARNAZ BATTLE was a good possession receiver in San Francisco before hurting his knee in 2008. If it's healed, he may make some third down catches in four and five wide receiver sets. Reminds me of Chris Calloway (who I liked), but with more speed. If Randle El turns out to be washed up, Battle could get his spot. Battle had a nice 51 yard catch and run in the preseason opener.
Rookie ANTONIO BROWN started three years at Central Michigan, catching 98, 93 and 110 passes! He was the ninth guy the Steelers drafted, but he has a chance to make the roster. Especially if Battle doesn't impress.
TYLER GRISHAM was an undrafted free agent out of Clemson who spent most of last year on the practice squad. He did catch one pass against the Ravens. He's probably bound for the PS again, but he may be around a little this season if guys get injured.
BRANDON LONDON has spent three years on practice squads and being cut. ISAIAH WILLIAMS was a talented under-achiever at Maryland. He signed as a free agent to replace LIMAS SWEED last year but didn't catch any passes. Don't expect either of them to matter this year.
Ah, Sweed. out for the year with a ruptured achilles tendon. Sweed has caught seven passes in his Steeler career. I'd be willing to bet he's dropped seven passes as well. What a disappointment. None of the receivers taken after him have done much yet, but some fellow named Ray Rice went two picks later to Baltimore. Argh!
The receivers lack the impact player now that Holmes is gone. He really only 'game changed' about two a year, but still, it was nice to have that threat. However, in a pass happy team with a strong-armed QB, Mike Wallace can go deep almost any down. I think he'll have a couple of quick strike TDs this year.
Also, keep in mind that Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall are very good pass catchers out of the backfield. I understand why, with the personnel on board (and Santonio was here), BA runs a pass-oriented offense. The problem is that it seems to have contributed to the inability to run for one or two yards when necessary., and also, it gets Ben killed. Those problems need fixed if BA wants to keep flinging the ball around.
This isn't a bad receiving corp if Randle El or Battle can be steady. Rookie contibutions would be nice. They'll miss Holmes (but don't forget, Holmes spent half a season dropping passes and running poor routes before turning it on in 2008) but Ward, Wallace and a third guy could be a pretty strong bunch.
Grade - 
As you know, I am the president of the HEATH MILLER fan club. There's not another TE in the NFL I would take over him. He's coming off a career high in catches and yards, blocks great and releases as a safety valve for Ben as well as anybody we've ever had. Just a superstar.
It's unlikely that anybody who's 6'-7", 270 lbs blocks as poorly as MATT SPAETH does. I just don't get it. Since he only caught five passes last year, you'd like to think he'd try and help out more blocking. I still think he can be a very difficult-to-cover tight end, but that's going to happen somewhere else. He was re-signed to a one year deal for 2010.
SEAN MCHUGH is back as a tight end playing full back. He didn't even catch a pass last year. If Bruce Arians wasn't so weird about full backs, McHugh probably wouldn't be on the roster. I'd use him over Spaeth in two tight end sets since he can block and they don't throw the ball to Spaeth anyways.
DAVID JOHNSON replaced McHugh as the backfield blocker last season. He did catch two short passes. He was a decent pass catching tight end at Arkansas State. Numbers might force him out, but I think there's a place for him in the NFL.
Miller is the best, but BA doesn't use any other tight ends in the offense, except as full backs. If Miller went down, BA would probably just have Spaeth block (poorly) and the TE would disappear from the offense. But Miller adds a huge piece to the passing game, so it's still a position of strength.

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