Steelers' Ward, Holmes And Who Else?
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Wednesday, August 22, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist
If Bruce Arians offense is going to effectively take flight the Steelers need a receiver to step up and assert himself as the #3 wide out. The offense to this point has not been the aerial assault that many expected, instead adopting a more prudent, game management style approach to the passing game, averaging just 13.6 points per game through three preseason games.
Though it is well known that coaches don't reveal too much of their game plan in the preseason, the amount of scoring the first string offense has produced has been disappointing, largely because of inconsistency from any receiver not names Ward or Holmes.
With the starters playing the entire first half versus the Redskins last week the offense mustered only a field goal against what was one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2006. In the previous week against the Packers, the first string offense again went without scoring a touchdown and hasn't found pay dirt since Najeh Davenport's four yard TD run versus the Saints in the Hall of Fame game. The offensive line has taken some blame, but more than anything the timing between quarterbacks and receivers looks off. Of the receivers in camp, here are the four front runners vying for increased playing time as the #3 wide out:
Fans were first introduced to Washington last season when he scored versus the Dolphins in the NFL's 2006 season opener, and showed flashes of his potential ever since. Unfortunately for Washington, he has become known for his inability to catch the football at certain points more so than his talent, something that has plagued him thus far in the preseason and hindered his ability to secure the #3 WR position opposite Ward and Holmes.
"There's no doubt that Nate's got all the speed and quickness and athleticism it takes," offensive coordinator Arians said recently, "It's just a matter of concentration and confidence. I think he'll be fine during the regular season. He should be over that now."
Arians must have a short memory to forget about Washington's two drops in the first quarter versus the Saints. Since then he has accumulated six catches for 75 yards in three preseason games.
Wilson started with a bang, hauling in a 55 yard reception on the team's first drive in the Hall of Fame game and finished with four receptions for 99 yards, showing hints of his forgotten big play ability that emerged at certain crucial points during the 2005 playoffs. He has regressed in the two games since just as he has been known to do in the past, not catching a single pass. Wilson has also been very outspoken regarding his role on the team, at certain times demanding more time on the field.
"I can't help if the quarterback doesn't throw me the ball," said Wilson, the starting split end last season. "I'm running my routes, I'm doing the right things. You can't help if the quarterback doesn't throw you the ball."
A long shot for the #3 role, free agent Young is a veteran of NFL Europe and has spent part of two seasons on the Steelers practice squad after appearing in seven games with the Carolina Panthers in 2003. "I'm trying to go out and make plays and give myself a chance. So far, I think I've done that. But I still believe I have a long way to go." In the 2006 season, Young played in two games with the Steelers and recorded his first career NFL catch. The team's tallest wide out at 6-foot-4, he is a big-bodied receiver who is trying to get some consistent work in the NFL and the Steelers might just be the place, especially since they're becoming more of a passing team under OC Arians. Young took a huge step forward by catching a 41-yard TD pass in a 13-9 loss to Green Bay, but got no passes thrown his way last week against the Redskins. On the preseason he has four receptions for 85 yards and one TD.
"He's on the brink," Tomlin said about Young. "You love guys that are fighting, particularly a guy like him who has been close a couple of times, played a little ball in this league and is looking for a breakthrough."
Reid's value to the team will come primarily as a kick returner and will probably only see the offensive side of the ball rarely. The team's third round pick a year ago, The 5-foot-10, 186-pounder was one of the nation's top punt return men and one of the best in Florida State history. He finished his career with 1,063 yards on 69 punt returns, ranking second only to Deion Sanders. On the preseason he has three receptions for 42 yards.
"He was a running back coming out of high school and worked his way into receiver," Arians said. "He's a little bit of a project, that part of it. He's ready to play there, I think. He's got excellent hands, big-time speed and he's a great run-after-the-catch guy with his return ability."