AFC North Positional Rankings: Wide Receiver
Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates after making a catch against the Baltimore Ravens in the second half during the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. The Ravens won 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
WR1: Antonio Brown (2nd among WR1’s)
WR2: Martavis Bryant (1st among WR2’s)
Other receivers: Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates
TE1: Heath Miller
TE2: Matt Spaeth
Although Pittsburgh doesn’t boast the best receiver in the AFC North, it boasts the best receiving corps. Although Antonio Brown’s height was originally viewed as a limit on his potential, he has proven skeptics wrong with back-to-back seasons as one of the league’s top receivers. In 2014, Brown gained 1,499 receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns. Last season, the Steeler gained 1,698 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. And although I’m not the biggest fan of tracking receptions as a meaningful statistic, Brown has an impressive 239 receptions in the past two seasons, which really speaks to the way that offensive coordinator Todd Haley utilizes receivers in the Steelers offense.
May 26, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) participates in OTA drills at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are both potential star receivers who have great potential. Bryant is a physical freak, with a height of 6’4 and a 40 time of 4.42. Despite only gaining 549 yards in 2014, Bryant took the top of several defenses, scoring eight touchdowns and averaging 21.1 yards per catch. Wheaton, on the other hand, is a reliable receiver who plays with a similar style to Antonio Brown. Wheaton gained 644 yards in 2014 and scored two touchdowns.
Pittsburgh’s receivers are all relatively young; Brown is one of the best all-around receivers in football, Bryant is a freak of nature and Wheaton, a track runner, has elite speed. The Steelers’ receiving corps focuses on speed and players’ abilities to make defenders miss. And to compliment the speedy receivers, Pittsburgh’s tight ends are rugged blockers who open up running lanes for Le’Veon Bell.
Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth are both master run-blockers; Miller is the best tight end in the AFC North and one of the best run-blocking tight ends in football. In addition to his ability to block, Heath Miller also boasts a pass-catching ability that is rare for blocking tight ends. Miller gained 761 receiving yards in 2014 and has 43 career receiving touchdowns.
Pittsburgh’s receiving corps is the best in the AFC North and could be the best in the NFL. The offense’s focus on speed and success in the passing game could dictate the NFL’s future, as teams could start shifting towards players who are speedy rather than those who sacrifice quickness for height. With this exciting group of pass-catchers, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have the best offense in the NFL come 2015.