“Next man up” is and has been the mantra of Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin for his entire tenure as head coach. This has included backups becoming starters due to injury or suspension and this is the case going into the 2016 football season. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant is suspended for the enti.re season because of how many failed drug tests. The 2014 fourth round draft pick was a big play player who quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked to streaking down the field. That threat is gone and so is the 50 receptions, 756 yards and 6 touchdowns that he provided just last year.
So who will be the “next man up” this year in the receiving corps. Antonio Brown will still be his dynamic self but what then. The first thing to look at is the size and speed that Bryant provided, can Markus Wheaton be more productive than his 40 receptions and five touchdowns, maybe if he can be a more reliable target.
After Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton the stats and the talent goes downhill very quickly, with Sammie Coates and Darius Heyward-Bey next on the depth chart. Coates had one reception for 11 yards and Heyward-Bey had 21 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t exactly strike fear into any defense yet alone move any coverage off of Brown. That takes us to free agents and draftees which include: seventh round pick Demarcus Ayers who is too short in height to be a Bryant shoe filler, free agent Isaac Blakeney a free agent from Duke who stands 6’6 but is to unproven and won’t even make the roster this year; another free agent is Marcus Tucker out of Northern Michigan, again he won’t make it out of training camp. The pickings are really getting slim at this point with a couple more free agents including Eli Rogers, Canaan Severin and Shakim Phillips.
The depth chart of the Pittsburgh Steelers receiving corps are not keeping too many defensive coordinators up at night as training camp approaches. The team either needs to find someone off the scrap heap or they need to run a whole heap of new passing plays that are geared toward middle of field plays and not bombs down the field.
The offense will struggle without Martavis Bryant this year and maybe forever because the Steelers front office really needs to decide whether or not it is in the teams best interest to even keep Bryant in the future. The offense will also struggle with the retirement of tight end Heath Miller who was not only a quarterback’s best friend but also a running back’s and offensive linemen’s best friends too.
It looks like the ‘next man up” may have to be every man in that wide receiving corps. Backups need to step up and be found , starters need to produce more and coaches need to change schemes, this year on offense needs to be a true group effort for success to happen at all.