Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
For years, fans have wanted the Steelers to draft a big receiver and for years, the Steelers have avoided them like the plague.
Three of their top four receivers will be under 6’0,” yet have the speed and quickness that will work well with what they are trying to do on offense.
Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Markus Wheaton are three quality route runners who are ideal fits with a timing-based passing attack, but still have the speed to stretch the field.
With Mike Wallace gone and Heath Miller out—for now—with an ACL injury, expect Roethlisberger to spread the ball around a lot.
Last season, the top three receivers had at least 44 receptions each, with Brown leading the way with 66 catches and Sanders leading the team with 14.2 yards per reception.
A lot will be asked of Brown this season, as he will take over as the No. 1.
His numbers slipped in 2012 after missing three games due to injury, but he showed his potential in 2011 when he caught 69 passes—including 57 for first downs—for 1,108 yards and an impressive average of 16.1 yards per reception.
The fall to 11.9 yards per reception last season was in part because of the shift in offensive philosophy of getting the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hands quicker.
Another negative is his lack of production when it comes to scoring. He had a career-high five touchdown receptions last year. By comparison, Wallace’s career-high came in his rookie year, when he had six touchdowns.
Sanders will have to help make up for scoring production as well.
The Steelers matched the offer sheet that Sanders signed with the New England Patriots earlier this offseason, and they are banking on a big year from him.
He struggled through injuries over his first two seasons and finally began to live up to his potential last year when caught 44 balls for 626 yards.
Though Sanders has yet to break through as a star receiver, his targets have been limited, and he will finally have a chance to break out. He is a terrific route runner and is not afraid to go over the middle. Expect him to make major strides this year.
Bleacher Report’s Ryan Lownes believes that Wheaton can "develop into a star” and for good reason.
Wheaton is a track athlete who can play football. He has terrific deep speed, but is diverse with his routes. However, like Brown and Sanders, he is not overly physical and can be knocked off of the ball.
That is where Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress come in.
These two receivers add size and a physical nature to the game. Cotchery will be able to find soft spots in the zone, and Burress could be a red zone threat if he makes the team.
There are several players that will challenge Burress for the final spot on the depth chart. David Gilreath and Justin Brown are the top two competitors.
Gilreath was the best of the undrafted rookies last season and saw some brief action late in the year. He can contribute on special teams and fits the mold as a fast, undersized receiver that the Steelers like.
If the Steelers are purely looking for size, Brown could be their man. He is 6’3” and had a productive senior season at Oklahoma as a receiver and punt returner. He is a pure possession receiver.
Derek Moye, Kashif Moore and J.D. Woods will all have opportunities to catch the eyes of the coaches, but will have a tough time making the team.
Another name to keep an eye on is Reggie Dunn, who ran a 4.29 40-yard dash. He will have his best shot at earning a roster spot as a kick returner, but if the offensive coaching staff gets creative, he would be a dangerous threat when in space.