Since Ben Roethlisberger came to Pittsburgh in 2004, the Steelers have had no shortage of success. But one thing they’ve been a little short on is, well, height, especially at the wide receiver position.
Since Roethlisberger’s rookie campaign, the Steelers have had four different receivers lead the team in yards. Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown have all had their moment in the sun. However, Ward was the tallest of the group at six-foot even.
Big Ben has really had only one elite-level target in Plaxico Burress and they were together for a whopping 11 games and 35 receptions during Roethlisberger’s rookie season. Since that time, tight end Heath Miller has almost exclusively been the team’s reliable red-zone target.
Fortunately for the Steelers, the 2014 draft is full of wide receiver targets with size. Here are a few players Pittsburgh may target. FYI, I did not add Sammy Watkins to this list because it’s highly doubtful he’d be available in a realistic scenario.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
In two seasons with the Aggies, the 6’5” Mike Evans was the top target of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Evans unique blend of size and speed allowed him to haul in 151 balls for 2,499 yards and 17 scores at College Station.
Evans' 20 yards per catch average in 2013 would bring back a much-missed deep threat and add some juice in the red zone as well. Evans is projected to be selected right around the time the Steelers are picking in the first round so they should have a shot at landing him.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
At 6’5”, 234 pounds, Kelvin Benjamin has an excellent blend of size and speed. Benjamin, like Evans, was the top target of a Heisman-winning QB on a National Championship team.
Benjamin reeled in 54 balls in 2013 for 1,011 yards and 15 scores for the Seminoles. He averaged 18.7 yards per catch, showing great range and downfield ability.
Right now, Benjamin is very raw, having just played two seasons at Florida State and really starting only one. But his athleticism and size are hard traits to pass up. Benjamin is currently listed anywhere between the mid-first round and second round depending on who you ask.
Allen Robinson, Penn State
Where better to find yourself a good player than in your own backyard? Penn State’s Allen Robinson, standing an unassuming 6’3”, has been a fantastic receiver in Happy Valley for the last two seasons.
In 2013, and with a true freshman quarterback, Robinson pulled in 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns. The six scores are a little underwhelming, but considering he scored 11 times in 2012, I doubt he’ll have trouble at the next level.
Robinson is currently ranked as a late first-rounder, but could move up the board with a good showing during the pre-draft workouts. Pittsburgh likes players that play nearby and Happy Valley is just a short hop from the Steel City.
Davante Adams, Fresno State
A 6’2” receiver may not exactly be considered big, but on this Steelers team he’d be pretty darn big. Fresno State’s Davante Adams posted some eye-popping numbers in the Bulldogs spread offense. In 2013 alone, Adams had 131 receptions for 1, 719 yards and 24 touchdowns.
That’s right, 24 touchdowns—in one season.
It’s the second straight 100-yard campaign for Adams and there’s no doubt he can catch the ball and make plays. The question surrounding him right now is his ability to adapt to an NFL offense.
Adams will most likely be had for a second-round pick and that might be a spot Pittsburgh’s willing to grab a receiver.
So, yes, it is time for the Steelers to add a big target for Big Ben, and this draft is the perfect time to do it.