The Steelers looked incredibly strong at the position going in to last year’s Super Bowl. Mike Wallace proved more than just a deep threat and became a fantasy football darling. Considered a sleeper before the season, Wallace’s ADP was 73rd overall but the Steeler receiver ended the year as the 39th best overall player in fantasy.
This year he is a hot commodity in fantasy football drafts, so you will need to streak early if you want a chance to draft him. There is some uncertainty at the position so far this training camp, and Wallace looks to be the only strong candidate at the position for the Steelers. There isn’t any reason to expect a drop in production for Wallace.
Veteran Hines Ward has been limited in training camp so far this offseason, although he has been asked for less and less in training camp as he has aged. He is still the most reliable target for the Steelers’ offense, as he may have the best understanding of his position and his own offense.
Although hampered by off season thumb surgery, Hines claims he is great shape, better than in previous seasons in fact. His production has dipped as expected for a 35-year-old receiver and that trend should continue. Hines is the team’s best red zone receiving threat however, so the reduced concentration on Hines could mean an increase in TDs.
Young second year players Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown both are expected to make big leaps this season and will be asked to contribute even more. Neither is really a fit to replace Ward, however, as they fall more in line athletically with Mike Wallace.
Sanders is coming off of multiple foot surgeries and has missed the majority of training camp to this point. He should return soon however, and his progress this year will determine who the No. 3 is, and ultimately, who will steal catches from Hines Ward.
Although Sanders is a very nice sleeper candidate, we are thinking Antonio Brown could end up stealing that label from Sanders. Brown has been taking all the snaps so far this offseason as the No. 2 receiver, and the injury and age concerns of Sanders and Ward could provide more opportunity during the regular season as well.
The Steelers did feel the pressure at the position this offseason however and had to sign a veteran presence in case injuries and age are too much to overcome. The Steelers recently signed free agent Jerricho Cotchery, formerly of the Jets, to a one year contract.
Cotchery has very good hands and is a good route runner. He looks to be more of a Hines Ward insurance plan. Cotchery is 29 and wants to compete for real playing time. He won’t get that in Pittsburgh but we love guys in contract years, so Cotchery should make some plays for the Steelers.