A ground game, bruising defense, and physical mindset are essentially historical trademarks of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sure, there have been exceptions. From Lynn Swann's acrobatics to Tommy Maddox's aerial assault in 2002, the offense has evolved (devolved in the minds of some), or at least adjusted, toward becoming a more efficient passing attack.
Yet, for most of the last forty years and spots of this past decade, the defining characteristics of "Steelers football" have remained true to the origins of the game: tackling, rushing, and defense.
Entering 2011, long gone are the days of Kordell Stewart throwing to receivers of second or third option quality, such as Courtney Hawkins and Charles Johnson. The roster now includes "rockets and retrievers" at receiver, a blend of fast, ball-snagging wideouts that can deliver big plays and big headaches against any secondary.
Unlike previous campaigns such as 1997, where Yancy Thigpen's 1,398 receiving yards stood out exclusively, or even the dynasty years where Swann and Stallworth threatened opposing defensive backs, Pittsburgh enters this year with not one, two, or even three dynamic athletes at the position.
The 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers will have the ability to walk up the line of scrimmage from a spread formation, Ben's "steely" eyes looking over the opposing defense, deciding to which of five supremely talented receivers the ball is going to be delivered.
And, that isn't including tight end Heath Miller, whose hands match his physicality.
A well-rounded, physical veteran.
A blossoming young burner, able to catch balls against his helmet like David Tyree!
A new veteran presence who could be a starter on as many as 20 other rosters.
The conference's most vertical threat.
And, another young speedster who promises to contribute in key spots after a return from injury.
It's difficult to determine which of the team's fine-fingered fellows is going to dominate the statistician's sheet, but each has a unique ability to contribute to the offense when their name is called upon. Given the balance of the Steelers' attack, this may be the first squad in decades to even approach the capability of the 1979 team, the last Pittsburgh squad to lead the league in total offense.
These five men will give defensive coordinators headaches in their various roles about an offense that enters the season fully balanced and very healthy. With franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entering what many anticipate to be a career season, his bounty of pass catchers almost assure his success, all other elements (offensive line) intact.
The following is a ranking of the Steelers receivers, any of whom are able to stand out with the critical play and hopefully willing to do whatever is necessary to assist the team with the best snag of all- the wins.