One of the biggest questions in the Steelers' draft room is how to cope will the loss of wide receiver Mike Wallace.
The speedy wideout is likely on his way to a big payday in a city other than Pittsburgh.
Luckily for the Steelers, there are several outstanding receiving prospects in this year's draft who could soften the blow somewhat.
Let's take a look at some of the candidates to be the next impact wide receiver in the Steel City.
Patterson is the most impressive prospect on tape in this wide receiver class.
He has prototypical size at 6’3” and 205 pounds, with room to fill in his frame. Patterson is a playmaker who pulled away from SEC defensive backs.
He is reluctant to accept any result other than a touchdown when he touches the ball, looking to score on every play.
While he is very effective as a wideout, Patterson is also a dangerous returner and can even be a threat as a rusher. Patterson’s game film revealed that he is a bit upright when he runs, but he is slippery and elusive enough to stay athletic after the catch.
Patterson’s game isn’t a technical marvel like Reggie Wayne's, but he is a very fluid, natural prospect who will definitely be a contributor on Sundays.
For all the buzz surrounding teammate Sammy Watkins, it is Hopkins who has been the Tigers’ most impressive receiving threat.
What you first notice about “Nuk” is his ability to attack the ball at its highest point. Hopkins competes for every ball thrown to him and has shown development as a possession target.
He has become a polished route-runner and sells double moves effectively with his head and shoulder fakes. Hopkins has also become a more willing blocker throughout his career.
The Clemson product is a complete prospect and has a high ceiling.
Allen’s statistical production at Cal suffered due to the limitations of his quarterback, Zach Maynard.
However, he certainly looked the part of an NFL receiver, especially when it came to winning jump-ball situations.
He’ll also be an effective and willing blocker in the NFL.
Allen is mentally tough and will shake off the occasional drop. His game isn’t all about straight-line speed. Instead, Allen will rely on his agility and quickness to gain separation, both before and after the catch.
Allen's stock has dropped as some other receivers have been fast risers, but don’t sleep on him as a playmaking wideout.
Johnthan Banks, the Mississippi State cornerback, has covered some great wideouts in his successful career. He’s faced Julio Jones and A.J. Green, to name a couple.
Who is the best receiver he’s ever faced?
I feel like (Quinton Patton) from Louisiana Tech is the best receiver I've played against since I've been here. I've gone against some good ones in the SEC, too, but he's probably the most complete. - via ESPN
Patton ramps up his game against top competition.
He registered 21 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. He catches the ball with his hands and rarely lets it come into his body.
There’s no wasted movement in Patton’s game, and everything he does is for a reason.
Louisiana Tech used a lot of the quick-hitting plays that Steelers fans have seen in Todd Haley’s offense, so Patton could step in right away and contribute.
The diminutive West Virginia weapon has a very large game.
Austin’s niche is in the slot, where he catches short passes and takes them the distance.
Think of him as a smaller Percy Harvin.
Austin is more herky-jerky than blindingly fast, but his ability to change direction and speeds makes him tricky to hit squarely. He isn’t a red-zone threat in the traditional sense, but in the middle sections of the field, he can score at will.
It’s likely that Austin won’t be able to get to the sidelines as easily against NFL athletes, but he could be a multipurpose player for Pittsburgh, nonetheless.
It’s likely that Hunter would be the consensus top receiver in the class if he hadn’t suffered a torn left ACL in 2011. He wasn’t quite the same receiver in 2012, as he worked his way back into form.
Hunter’s physical tools will have NFL GMs drooling, as 6’4” wide receivers with his kind of speed aren’t exactly growing on trees.
His leaping ability makes him an ideal red-zone target, and Ben Roethlisberger would likely appreciate finally landing a big receiver.
However, Hunter did drop some balls that he shouldn’t have this season, which will remind many Steelers fans of Limas Sweed’s short stay in Pittsburgh.
When he’s on his game, he looks more like a faster Larry Fitzgerald.
This one is a literal Mike Wallace replacement.
The scouting report on the 6’0” Beaver is remarkably similar to the one on Wallace—speed to burn. Wheaton's weaknesses also mirror Wallace’s—he will let the ball come into his body, and he's not amazing after the catch.
If the Steelers are looking to plug a guy in that does a lot of the things that Wallace does, Wheaton might be their guy.
Rogers is one of the enigmas of this draft.
He has loads of natural talent, especially over the middle of the field.
He joins Mike Williams (USC), Terrell Owens and Julio Jones as the most physical wide receivers I’ve ever seen. However, character concerns have negatively affected his draft status.
He doesn’t have blinding speed, but he actively seeks out contact with defensive backs and linebackers alike.
Rogers is devastating on crossing routes, boxing defenders out with his long frame. He actually reminds me of a tight end/wide receiver hybrid, a la Aaron Hernandez.
Rogers is unlike any Steelers receiver in recent memory, and he would bring a new dimension to Todd Haley’s offense.
Track stars are getting their chance in the NFL, and Goodwin is the latest one to take a shot.
He’s just 5’9” and 177 pounds, but he still found ways to be effective at Texas. Goodwin definitely plays bigger than he is, extending his hands to snag passes before absorbing hits.
Obviously, his speed is one of his best assets.
Goodwin will be available in the later rounds if the Steelers opt to wait at receiver.
Sanders is another prospect who packs a big-time game into a little frame.
He was all over the field for South Carolina, both as a feared return man and a chain-moving receiver. I think that his game will translate just as well to the NFL as any other receiver's in this draft class.
His ability to get open during scramble situations evokes Wes Welker, and he will be a very attractive quality given Ben Roethlisberger’s improvisational tendencies.
Sanders really picked up his game when fellow Gamecock Marcus Lattimore suffered a knee injury, which is a prerequisite in Pittsburgh as well.