Steelers draft capsule: WRs/TEs
The following is the fourth of seven Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 NFL draft position-by-position analyses:
Currently on roster: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, Cobi Hamilton, Demarcus Ayers, Canaan Severin, Marcus Tucker, Dez Stewart
Last five drafts: The Steelers have selected at least one receiver in each of the last five drafts with mixed results. Late-rounders like Toney Clemons (seventh, 2012), Justin Brown (sixth, 2013) and Ayers (seventh, 2016) didn’t or haven’t made impacts. Clemons and Brown are out of football. Middle-rounders like Markus Wheaton (third, 2013), Bryant (fourth, 2014) and Coates (third, 2015) have shown flashes but haven’t been consistent. Wheaton is now with the Chicago Bears, Bryant will be coming off a season-long suspension for drugs, and Coates has been hampered by injuries.
Top wide receivers available: Mike Williams, Clemson; Corey Davis, Western Michigan; John Ross, Washington; Curtis Samuel, Ohio State; Chris Godwin, Penn State
The Steelers might select: Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M; Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois; Quincy Adeboyejo, Mississippi; Robert Davis, Georgia State; Josh Malone, Tennessee; Jamari Staples, Louisville; Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse; Mack Hollins, North Carolina
Analysis: Brown is now signed for five more seasons, but the Steelers need more weapons around him. If Bryant can turn his life around and Coates can take his game up a few notches, the Steelers will have their answers. That’s too much to count on, so expect the Steelers to take another receiver in the draft this year. They like tall and fast receivers — Reynolds or Golladay could be third- or fourth-rounders while the others listed above are more fifth-to-seventh-rounders. The talent pool this year is loaded with draftable receivers (more than 40), so the Steelers could wait until the fifth or sixth round and still get a wideout with good potential. Because the Steelers have more needs on defense, that will appear to be the best route to go this year.
Currently on roster: Ladarius Green, Jesse James, David Johnson, Xavier Grimble, Ryan Malleck
Last five drafts: James (fifth round, 2015) improved in his second season filling in for Green but doesn’t appear to be the long-term answer as a starter. David Paulson (seventh round, 2012) and Rob Blanchflower (seventh round, 2014) are no longer in the NFL.
Top tight ends available: O.J. Howard, Alabama; David Njoku, Miami; Evan Engram, Mississippi; Jake Butt, Michigan; Jordan Leggett, Clemson
The Steelers might select: Njoku; Engram; Butt; Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech; Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas; Adam Shaheen, Ashland; Gerald Everett, South Alabama; Michael Roberts, Toledo
Analysis: The Steelers signed Green to a four-year, $20 million contract last year, so they’ll be looking for more from their investment. He was only healthy for six games last season. The Steelers could select Njoku in the first round (if he’s still there with the 30th pick) to basically show Green the door. Njoku could be just the target Ben Roethlisberger needs to make the Steelers an even better offensive juggernaut. However, there are more tight ends that are projected to go on the second or third days — like former Pitt-Johnstown basketball player Shaheen — that could also potentially make impacts on the Steelers’ offense. But it will be interesting if Njoku is still on the board when the Steelers make their first pick on Thursday night.
Coming Monday: Defensive linemen