Pittsburgh Steelers: Derek Moye

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers have kept all of their 2014 draft picks in some capacity.

Cornerback Shaquille Richardson and tight end Rob Blanchflower were among the 10 players that the Steelers signed to their practice squad on Sunday afternoon.

Joining those two on the practice squad are defensive ends Josh Mauro and Nick Williams, wide receivers Derek Moye and C.J. Goodwin, outside linebacker Howard Jones, safety Ross Ventrone, running back Josh Harris and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

All players had to pass through waivers unclaimed before the Steelers could sign them to their practice squad.

The Steelers did not sign any offensive linemen to their practice squad since they kept nine on the 53-man roster. Moye returns to the practice squad after spending all of last season on the 53-man roster.

Moye essentially switched spots with former Penn State teammate and good friend Justin Brown.

Richardson and Blanchflower are among the seven rookies on the practice squad, and they were fifth- and seventh-round draft picks, respectively.

A knee injury sidelined Richardson for the final three preseason games and prevented the Arizona product from making a serious run at the 53-man roster. The addition of Richardson and Blanchflower to the practice squad means all nine of the Steelers' draft picks in May are still with the team.

Six picks made the 53-man roster and the Steelers placed linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, a sixth-round selection, on injured reserve late last week.

Mauro and Jones are among the undrafted rookies who flashed in training camp and the preseason who earned spots on the practice squad.

The Steelers are off today and return to practice Monday morning.

W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
The Carolina Panthers (1-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) play Thursday night at Heinz Field.
  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told his players the story of wide receiver Derek Moye earlier this week. Moye, an undrafted free agent in 2012, had been on the outside looking in going into the final preseason game last season. Moye caught two passes for 55 yards and just as impressive was his running down Panthers cornerback Josh Norman from behind after an interception. Moye played his way onto the 53-man roster, and Tomlin’s message to those who are in the same situation this year -- and that includes Moye -- was simple: Make it hard if not impossible for us to cut you.
  • Veteran defensive end Brett Keisel, who has been back with the Steelers for little more than a week, is expected to receive extensive playing time in a game that is generally reserved for younger players. Keisel could use work in preparation for the regular-season opener, and it will be interesting to see where the 13-year veteran gets his snaps. Keisel started at right defensive end from 2006-13 and Cameron Heyward, who will sit out as a precaution after spraining his ankle last Thursday, is listed at left defensive end on the depth chart. But Heyward started at right defensive end in the Steelers’ third preseason game, the day after they re-signed Keisel, and he has been entrenched there since the outset of offseason practices. We may find out more on how the Steelers plan on using Keisel this season based on where he lines up against the Panthers.
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t play against the Panthers. Backup Bruce Gradkowski will play sparingly if at all. That means it will be Landry Jones’ show, and if the second-year man bombs against the Panthers there may not be a place for him on the 53-man roster. The Steelers desperately want Jones, on whom they inexplicably used a fourth-round draft pick in 2013, to earn a spot on the team and not find his way onto it because they want to carry three quarterbacks. The former Oklahoma star did not play well in the Steelers’ second preseason game and he didn’t play at all last Thursday in a 31-21 loss at Philadelphia. It’s interesting that No. 4 quarterback Brendon Kay survived the first round of cuts Tuesday. Is the undrafted rookie competing with Jones or are the Steelers planning to play him Thursday so he can put out game tape after not seeing the field in the first three preseason games?
This is the fourth in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every position on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up is wide receiver.

Players on the roster: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown, Derek Moye, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kashif Moore, Lanear Sampson, James Shaw and C.J. Goodwin.

Projected starters: Brown and Wheaton. Brown emerged as an elite playmaker last season when he smashed the Steelers' season record for receiving yards with 1,499. Wheaton has the potential to be an upgrade over Emmanuel Sanders, who started opposite Brown in 2013. He just needs to play.

Projected number on 53-man roster: Five. It's hard to see the Steelers keeping six at the position since Dri Archer is listed as a running back and wide receiver. That leaves Moye and Heyward-Bey on the outside looking in though they still have time to make a move on Justin Brown, one of the five wideouts I have making the team.

Rookie watch: Martavis Bryant is the wild card of the group. The fourth-round pick had a good camp after a slow start to it, and it's obvious that the speedy 6-4, 220-pounder has the talent to help the Steelers right away. But Bryant started just one season at Clemson before leaving school early so his inexperience is a concern. Bryant is going to have to earn the trust of coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with his attention to detail and consistency.

What we learned in camp: The Steelers are giving Wheaton every opportunity to win the starting job, and they really need him to take advantage of it. Moore is no more than a No. 3 wide receiver at this stage of his career and Bryant isn't ready to start. The Steelers love Brown, who has made dramatic improvement after spending all of last season on the practice squad but he doesn't have the speed to start at this level. The Steelers are going to have to make some tough cuts at this position.

He said it: “I'm glad they are pushing me to take that spot. I obviously want that spot but there are a lot of good guys competing for that spot. There will be a lot of growth from that competition. I think with that growth I will prove that I can hold that spot down.” -- Wheaton on competing for the starting job opposite Antonio Brown.

W2W4: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
The Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) and New York Giants (0-0) open the preseason Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.

1. The 2014 draft class: The rookies are brimming with promise and a handful of them should help right away. Coach Mike Tomlin and his assistants get their first look at the players in a live game who collectively are a key to the Steelers rebounding from consecutive 8-8 seasons. First-round pick Ryan Shazier is unlikely to play after missing three consecutive practices because of the right knee injury that Tomlin has called a “boo boo.” Even if the ailment is a minor one, the Steelers would be crazy to take anything but a cautious approach with the inside linebacker. Second-round pick Stephon Tuitt has created as much of a buzz at training camp as Shazier. He is likely to start at left defensive end. It will be interesting to see the different ways in which the Steelers deploy third-round pick Dri Archer, a running back/wide receiver/return specialist, and wide receiver Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick, has made his share of plays in practice. Now it’s time to see if the 6-foot-4, 211-pound speedster can transfer that to a game.

2. Justin Brown: Tomlin almost always sidesteps questions such as the one posed to him Thursday when the eighth-year coach was asked if any players have surprised him during camp. He mostly spoke in generalities but did mention Brown specifically. That added more confirmation that few, if any, players on the Steelers' roster have improved more since last season than Brown. The 2013 sixth-round pick spent all of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad but he stood out during offseason practices and has continued his strong play in camp. Brown has already displayed toughness, returning to practice one day after undergoing surgery to fix a broken nose. Tonight he gets to show how much he has improved in a game. Brown has the inside track to a roster spot at a crowded position but it is early. He will have to produce in preseason games to hold off players such as Derek Moye and Darrius Heyward-Bey if the Steelers keep only five wide receivers.

3. The long shots: A handful of undrafted free agents and players who signed futures contracts have flashed during camp. They include safety Jordan Dangerfield, guard/center Chris Elkins and outside linebacker Howard Jones. They will receive extensive playing time with the starters expected to receive only a limited number of snaps. I’m especially looking forward to watching Jones, who signed with the Steelers in May after starring at Shepherd University, a Division II school in West Virginia. He has played well in camp and may have the easiest path to the 53-man roster since the Steelers are not especially deep at outside linebacker.
Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steelers' mail bag. My apologies but I lost a bunch of questions because my Twitter timeline got so jammed from training camp updates. Please re-send your question if I did not get to it here and keep the questions coming. I'm hoping to run another mailbag on Monday and I'm sure there will be plenty of questions from the Steelers' first preseason game.

And away we go...

@ScottBrown_ESPN Props, Jeremy, for getting three questions in despite limited characters. I’m not sure whose idea it was for Bell to drop a little weight but I will ask him this week. He didn't strike me last season as a player who needed to shed a few pounds so my guess is that it was Bell’s decision. A couple of tough cuts will be made at wide receiver and in my latest 53-man roster projection I only have the Steelers keeping five players at the position. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Derek Moye are my odd men out but it is still so early. Taylor has looked and he said he is healthy after battling through injuries last season. I’m anxious to see him in preseason games though Taylor and the rest of the starters will probably only play a series or two Saturday night against the New York Giants.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Dangerfield making the 53-man roster. I know Adams has struggled through the first half of training camp but I can’t see the Steelers giving up on the 2012 second-round draft pick. If they cut Adams, Guy Whimper is the No. 3 offensive tackle and he is not better than Adams. As for Dangerfield he has been impressive and I think he has a chance to make the team though the Steelers probably have to keep five safeties for that to happen.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Outside linebacker Howard Jones has impressed me and one veteran told me that he “has a chance to be a player.” The Shepherd University product has obvious pass-rushing skills and last Friday night he twice beat tight end Heath Miller in the backs on ‘backers drill. My concern with Jones, aside from his having to make the jump from Division II to the NFL, is whether he is big enough. It would be ideal if he could spend a year on the practice squad and get bigger. The Steelers, however, may not be able to sneak Jones onto their practice squad if he plays well in preseason games.

@ScottBrown_ESPN No, I think Shamarko Thomas will play more than just special teams this season. Will Allen has made it tough for Thomas to get on the field as a third safety because of how well the 11th-year veteran has played since re-joining the Steeelers last October. But I think Thomas makes a big jump this season and at some point supplants Allen as the No. 3 safety. When that happens remains to be seen.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Either cornerback Cortez Allen or right tackle Marcus Gilbert. I have my doubts as to whether the Steelers get a new deal done with outside linebacker Jason Worilds, and they can use the transition tag again or franchise tag on him next year if they want to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. That scenario is not ideal for either side. But it gives the Steelers protection if they don’t sign Worilds to a new deal yet don’t want to lose him after this season either. The problem with this scenario is it would leave the Steelers without a safety net in regard to Allen. They lost Keenan Lewis to free agency in 2013 and not signing him turned out to be a mistake. They certainly don’t want to lose another young cornerback, which makes me optimistic that the Steelers get something done with Allen before Sept. 7. The same goes for Gilbert, who played very well through the first half of training camp and is looking more and more like the right tackle of the present and future with Adams off to a slow start.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Nothing happening on either front and it’s looking like it’s going to take an injury for either player to return to the Steelers. I had Brett Keisel on my first projected 53-man roster but not the one that ran on Monday in large part because rookie Stephon Tuitt has looked so good in camp. He may start sooner rather than later at left defensive end and should play significant snaps this season. I still think Keisel would be a perfect addition so he could mentor Tuitt and add depth at defensive end. But right now it looks like the Steelers are committed to younger players at defensive end and outside linebacker. I don’t think the Steelers have ruled out re-signing either Keisel or James Harrison but, again, it may take an injury at their respective positions for them to pick up the phone.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Thomas has played well and he has gotten work with the first-team defense at left defensive end and nose tackle. He is the starter at left defensive end for now but Tuitt is such a talent that Thomas will only hold off the second-round draft pick for so long. The Steelers would love nothing more than for Tuitt to play his way into the starting lineup so they can use Thomas as a swing player between defensive end and nose tackle.
PITTSBURGH – Derek Moye spent all of last season on the Steelers' 53-man roster and two of the wide receivers ahead of the Penn State product signed with other teams during the offseason.

Despite this, it is hard not to wonder if Moye actually lost ground in his bid to make an impact this season. Moye, as it turns out, will have a hard time simply making the team again because of the crowd that the Steelers have at wide receiver.

They signed veterans Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey in March and drafted Clemson’s Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. The Steelers also saw 2013 sixth-round pick Justin Brown, who spent last season on their practice squad, make a significant jump during offseason practices.

So where does all of that leave Moye? Pretty much in the same position as last season when the former undrafted free agent had to play his way onto the 53-man roster.

“That’s the way it is,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “He knows that. Each time he gets on the field he gets better. He has a chance.”

The good news for Moye, who caught just two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown last season, is that the competition at wide receiver won’t really start until Monday when the Steelers wear pads for the first time.

Also, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder made the team last season after entering camp as a long shot. There is no reason to think Moye can’t do it again with another strong camp and playing well in the preseason games.

Here are four other players who also need to flash during training camp.

OLB Chris Carter. The Steelers’ lack of depth at outside linebacker gives the 2011 fifth-round draft pick an inside track to making the 53-man roster. But Carter is vulnerable because he played primarily on special teams in three seasons and has yet to record a sack for the Steelers. Carter received praise from linebackers coach Keith Butler during offseason practices. He has to show the Steelers during camp that he can play extensive snaps at outside linebacker in the event of an injury.

TE David Paulson. He has just 13 catches for 153 yards in two seasons and Paulson isn’t going to make the team as a blocking tight end. The 2012 seventh-round pick has to show he can become a bigger part of the passing game as he is a prime candidate to fall victim to a numbers crunch. The Steelers return four tight ends from last season and they added to the position by drafting Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round and signing Eric Waters as an undrafted free agent.

DE Nick Williams. Williams did very little during offseason practices because he was still recovering from a knee injury he sustained almost a year ago. The Steelers like Williams’ potential but the 6-4, 309-pounder needs to get on the field during camp and get as much work as possible at a position that is hard for young players to master. The Steelers, meanwhile, need an end to emerge from a young group that includes Williams, Brian Arnfelt and undrafted free agent Josh Mauro.

P Brad Wing. His talent is undeniable and the Steelers think he has matured since going undrafted out of LSU in 2013 and failing to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ team last season. That he is a lefty helps – coach Mike Tomlin seems to prefer those kinds of punters – but Wing has to beat out veteran Adam Podlesh, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in April. Since Podlesh has a track record in the NFL Wing will have to clearly outplay him in training camp and preseason games to make the team.
This is the next in a series that looks at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching. Our fourth look is at wide receiver.

Returning starter: Antonio Brown. There are breakout seasons. Then there is what Brown did in 2013 when there were questions about whether the Steelers had a No. 1 wide receiver following the free-agent loss of Mike Wallace. Brown set a Steelers single-season record with 1,499 receiving yards and his 110 catches were just three shy of establishing a team record in that category.

New faces: Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Steelers signed Moore to a two-year, $3.5 million contract shortly after Jerricho Cotchery signed with the Carolina Panthers. They signed the speedy Heyward-Bey to a veteran minimum contract and he will have to win a spot on the 53-man roster.

On the bubble: Derek Moye. The former undrafted free agent played his way onto the roster last season but he had a hard time getting on the field. The 6-5, 210-pounder caught just two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown, and he will have to hold off Heyward-Bey and 2013 sixth-round pick Justin Brown, among others, to again stick with the Steelers.

By the numbers: Brown had 23 catches that were at least 20 yards last season – one more than Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Did you know: Danny Coale, who signed with Pittsburgh last January, is the son-in-law of former Steelers offensive lineman and color analyst for the team radio broadcasts Tunch Ilkin. Coale, a fifth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2012, has spent time on the Cowboys’ and Indianapolis Colts’ practice squads.

Quotable: “You can see a different level of confidence in the way they carry themselves. They are no longer rookies. They are no longer looking around at who to follow. They are coming out here and leading their group. I think that’s come from hard work. They didn’t get noticed during the season last year when they were on the practice squad or not getting a ton of reps in games, but everybody out here can see that they were working hard and were continuing to make plays and get better.” – offensive coordinator Todd Haley on second-year wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Brown.

Outlook: The Steelers had significant turnover at the position with the losses of Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders. They need Wheaton, a 2013 third-round pick, to emerge after a broken pinkie sabotaged most of his rookie season. Moore should prove to be a more than capable replacement for Cotchery and the wild card of the group is rookie Martavis Bryant. The fourth-round pick has an excellent blend of size and speed, and he could help the Steelers this season if he makes steady progress during training camp and preseason practice.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers open their three-day minicamp on Tuesday and it is mandatory.

Yes, that means you Troy Polamalu.

Polamalu skipped organized team activities, which are voluntary, so the veteran safety could continue his offseason training in California. The eight-time Pro Bowler is expected to take part in the three two-plus hour practices that end Thursday and conclude offseason drills.

Here are five things to watch at Steelers minicamp.

Getting to know you: Free safety Mike Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers in March, is anxious to work with Polamalu. The latter had a terrific rapport with Ryan Clark, Mitchell’s predecessor, and he will need to develop some chemistry with Mitchell. That will happen during training camp, but it certainly won’t hurt that the two safeties get a feel for one another prior to the Steelers reporting to camp on July 25.

The rookie linebacker: No, not Ryan Shazier, who stood out during OTAs and is on his way to locking down the starting job at weakside inside linebacker. Sixth-round pick Jordan Zumwalt will practice with the full squad for the first time since he was not allowed to take part in OTAs because UCLA had not completed its school year. Zumwalt played both inside and outside during rookie minicamp last month and it will be interesting to see how many snaps he gets at outside linebacker. The Steelers are lacking depth at the position and there could an opportunity for Zumwalt at outside linebacker.

Jason Worilds’ participation: A nagging calf injury prevented Worilds from practicing beyond the first day of OTAs and the Steelers are likely to be cautious with their 2013 sack leader during minicamp. Worilds’ injury isn’t a concern and it gave Arthur Moats, who signed with the Steelers in March, a lot of work at left outside linebacker. But Worilds not practicing during most of the OTA sessions also showed how thin the Steelers are at outside linebacker – and how vital it is that he stays healthy this season.

Wide receiver shuffle: Markus Wheaton, who opened offseason practices with the inside track to start opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown in 2014, participated on a limited basis during the final week of OTAs and may be dealing with some sort of leg or foot injury. Wheaton’s limited activity provided an opportunity for Justin Brown, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, to get plenty of work with the first-team offense. Brown, Derek Moye, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Danny Coale are among the wide receivers who will likely battle for one roster spot. The real separation won’t happen until training camp and preseason games but the competition will continue at minicamp.

Sleeper watch: History says one or a couple of players who are under the radar right now will earn a spot on the 53-man roster at the end of August. Defensive tackle Al Lapuaho, a former undrafted free agent, is one player to keep an eye on. The 6-foot-2, 301-pounder, who got cut by the St. Louis Rams at the end of preseason practice in 2013, has impressed Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward. “He’s got a good frame. He’s very intelligent and he works his tail off,” Heyward said. “We’ve got a lot of guys I want to take a look at during camp. It’s hard to [gauge the defensive linemen] right now because you don’t know how they’re going to do with their pads on but we’re off to a good start.”
PITTSBURGH – Steelers wide receiver Justin Brown has been working with the first-team offense and his improvement from his rookie season could come at the expense of his friend and former Penn State teammate Derek Moye.

Moye and Brown are among the Steelers wide receivers who will likely battle for one roster spot at training camp. The same thing happened a year when Moye, a former undrafted free agent, emerged as one of the preseason surprises for the Steelers and played his way onto the 53-man roster.

Brown spent all of last season on the Steelers’ practice squad, and if organized team activities are any indication, the 2013 sixth-round pick made good use of his time learning from wide receivers like Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery.

Brown has stood out during OTAs, which wrap up Thursday at Steelers’ headquarters. And if the 6-3, 209-pounder builds on what he has done in the offseason practices he will be tough for Moye to hold off this year.

Not that Brown looks at it as a competition between the two.

“We’re all out here competing, we’re all out here trying to get better,” Brown said. “Derek’s my boy so there’s no hard feelings at all. We’re always trying to help each other out with our games.”

What is interesting about the battle for the final spot at wide receiver is that whoever wins it could play significant snaps in 2014. Rookie Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick, may not be ready to contribute much this season so there is an opportunity for a player such as Brown to not only to make the Steelers but also to play in some sort of rotation at wide receiver.

Judging by the snaps he has gotten with the first-team offense -- and what he has done with them -- Brown could push for a more prominent role.

Brown, who played his final season at Oklahoma after transferring from Penn State, has already received praise from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and it’s easy to see why.

Brown caught a touchdown pass in traffic from Roethlisberger on Wednesday. He also broke up a pass in the end zone when an underthrown Roethlisberger pass could have resulted in an interception.

The way he fought for the ball on both plays hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaches, who have given Brown a long look during the Steelers’ offseason practices.

“It’s definitely good getting some reps with the ones,” Brown said. “It definitely is encouraging. I’ve just got to keep working hard.”

That is because the competition for Brown and the other wide receivers trying to make the team won’t really start until July 25, the day the Steelers report to training camp.

“I think we’ve got a lot of good younger receivers,” said Moye, who caught two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown last season. “It’s going to be a good competition. At the same time we’re out there helping each other out, making sure we all push each other to be better.”
Here is the latest Steelers' mailbag. If you have a question please send to ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go...

PITTSBURGH -- Soft-spoken and humble, Markus Wheaton is in many ways the anti-wide receiver -- or at least the preening, me-me-me player that has become the caricature of the position.

[+] EnlargeMarkus Wheaton
Patrick Semansky/AP PhotoThrough offseason practices, Markus Wheaton appears to be the leading candidate to start at wide receiver for the Steelers.
Far from demanding the ball, Wheaton won’t even say the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting job opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown is his to lose even though he occupies it at the outset of offseason practices.

“There’s a lot of guys chasing that spot and hopefully I can get it first and go from there,” Wheaton said. “They’re pushing all of us to get better, and whoever wants it the most will take it, so I’m going to do what I can to get that spot.”

Such, ahem, bravado, won’t ease the anxiety of Steelers fans who have concerns about a receiving corps that lost two of its top three players from last year and 16 touchdowns alone from Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.

But Wheaton appears ready to emerge in every way except for his decidedly non-cavalier attitude.

The finger injury that required multiple surgeries last season and limited Wheaton to 157 snaps is behind him, he said. Wheaton and fellow wideouts Derek Moye and Justin Brown also spent a week practicing with Ben Roethlisberger in California this offseason, taking the Steelers' quarterback up on his invitation to work on timing and other aspects of the passing game.

With Sanders in Denver -- he signed a three-year deal with the Broncos in March -- Wheaton has a clear path to the field.

And someone has to step up with Antonio Brown certain to see all kinds of extra attention this season.

“I’m excited to see what he can do,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s a guy that wants to prove that he can be a starter.”

Wheaton did not get to show much last season after breaking his right pinkie in several places in the fourth game of the season. The injury, which also damaged a joint, effectively forced Wheaton to redshirt his rookie season, but it did not stop the third-round draft pick from doing everything he could to learn a new offense.

And when the 5-11, 182-pounder had one of his many questions, he could turn to Cotchery or Roethlisberger, whose locker is next to Wheaton’s at the Steelers’ practice facility.

“Being able to sit out last year pretty much helped me,” said Wheaton, who caught six passes for 64 yards in limited action. “I learned a lot of the coverages, the adjustments Ben throws at us, the playbook.”

How much Wheaton can transfer what he has learned to the field will be critical to Roethlisberger developing the kind of trust in him that will allow the Steelers to run their no-huddle offense with the same frequency as in the second half of last season when they won six of eight games.

“We lost two starting wide receivers that knew the no-huddle so well, so we’re going to need the new guys and the young guys to pick it up quick,” Roethlisberger said.
PITTSBURGH -- This is the first in a series that takes a post-free agency, post-draft look at the all of the positions with the exception of quarterback.

The Steelers' depth chart at the position still has Ben Roethlisberger atop of it followed by veteran Bruce Gradkowski and 2013 fourth-round pick Landry Jones. The Steelers signed Brendon Kay as an undrafted free agent but he is a long shot to unseat Jones as the No. 3 quarterback.

Our first look is at a position that has undergone its share of change since the last season.

Wide receiver

Who is new: Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Martavis Bryant. The Steelers gave serious thought to drafting Bryant in the third round. They got the 6-foot-4, 212-pound speedster in the fourth round.

Who is gone: Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery. Sanders signed with the Broncos, and the Steelers moved quickly to sign Moore after the unexpected loss of Cotchery to the Panthers.

Returning starter: Antonio Brown. All he did last season was catch 110 passes for a Steelers single-season record 1,499 yards. So much for Roethlisberger needing a primary target following the loss of Mike Wallace.

Most significant addition: Moore. A smaller but savvy receiver, Moore thrived while catching passes from Drew Brees in New Orleans. The Steelers need the ninth-year veteran to help offset the loss of Cotchery as the Steelers' No. 3 wide receiver.

Most significant loss: Cotchery. The consummate professional was one of only 11 players in the NFL to catch at least 10 touchdown passes in 2013. Roethlisberger has already publicly lamented the loss of Cotchery, which is just one measure of how valuable the latter was to the Steelers.

On outside looking in: Derek Moye. The former undrafted free agent and Pittsburgh-area product logged just 52 snaps last season and caught two passes for 20 yards. Moye will again have to fight his way onto the 53-man roster.

Hidden number: Brown is a do-it all player who has made the Pro Bowl as both a wide receiver and a punt returner. But only 15 of his 261 career receptions have resulted in touchdowns. That and the loss of Cotchery magnified the need for a potential redzone target like Bryant.

Outlook: No player is on the spot more than second-year man Markus Wheaton. The starting job opposite Brown is his for the taking, and the 2013 third-round draft pick could be an upgrade over Sanders if he takes advantage of his opportunity. The Steelers' faith in Wheaton allowed them to wait until the fourth round to take Bryant, and the Clemson product could be the ultimate wild card. Bryant has a tremendously high ceiling but there are concerns about his maturity. ESPN analyst Todd McShay has called Bryant a "boom or bust" prospect. If he turns out to be the former Roethlisberger will be one happy quarterback.
PITTSBURGH -- A day after adding depth at cornerback with the signing of Brice McCain the Steelers could do the same at wide receiver.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, will visit the Steelers on Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Steelers are only $171,934 under the cap, but hovering near the spending ceiling hasn’t stopped them from filling holes on their roster, and Heyward-Bey has emerged as their latest target.

Heyward-Bey never lived up to enormous expectations in Oakland after the Raiders fell in love with his speed and made him the first wide receiver drafted in 2009. The 6-2, 219-pounder spent four seasons in Oakland before signing with Indianapolis.

Heyward-Bey played in all 16 games last season for the Colts -- he started 11 of them -- and caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown. In five NFL seasons Heyward-Bey has 169 catches for 2,380 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Steelers are expected to take a wide receiver early in the draft but they apparently are interested in adding another veteran to the position as well.

Markus Wheaton is expected to get the first crack at replacing Emmanuel Sanders opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown, but he played just 153 snaps his rookie season and caught six passes for 64 yards.

The Steelers signed Lance Moore to take over as their No. 3 wide receiver following the loss of Jerricho Cotchery to the Panthers and the only other wide receiver on the roster with any NFL experience is Derek Moye.

The 6-5 Moye played 52 snaps last season and caught two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown.

Unexpected loss leaves hole at WR

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
PITTSBURGH -- Add wide receiver to the list of positions in which the Pittsburgh Steelers are goalpost-thin following the departure of Jerricho Cotchery.

Cotchery is the second wide receiver that the Steelers have lost via free agency in the last week, leaving the Steelers with Antonio Brown and a pair of players who have a combined 205 snaps of NFL experience between them at the position.

The loss of Cotchery, who agreed to terms with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, may be even more significant than that of Emmanuel Sanders.

Unlike Sanders, who started last season and recently signed a three-year contract with the Broncos, the Steelers anticipated bringing Cotchery back.

And the 10th-year veteran appeared to be the most likely of the Steelers' free agents to re-sign with the team.

Less than three months ago Cotchery talked about how much he loved playing with a quarterback the caliber of Ben Roethlisberger and playing for a coach like Mike Tomlin.

Heck, Cotchery said the day that the Steelers players cleaned out their lockers in late December that he had so much respect for Tomlin he would mow the seventh-year coach's lawn if asked.

He sounded anything like a player who wasn't coming back.

Does that somehow make Cotchery the heavy for signing elsewhere? Not at all.

The Steelers may have miscalculated with their No. 3 wide receiver, gambling that a wide receiver who turns 32 in June, wouldn't receive much interest on the open market. But the Panthers were raided at wide receiver and desperate for players at the position, leading to Cotchery's return to the state where the North Carolina State product played his college ball.

Given how much Cotchery liked Pittsburgh, you have to think the Panthers offered him significantly more money than the Steelers were willing to pay.

What would really sting for the Steelers is if Cotchery left because he thinks he has a better chance of playing in a Super Bowl with the Panthers, whose franchise quarterback won't practice until the start of training camp because of recent ankle surgery.

Markus Wheaton, Cotchery's protégé, and Derek Moye are now the most experienced wide receivers on the Steelers' roster after Brown. They played 153 snaps and 52 snaps, respectively last season.

They combined for eight catches, 84 yards and a touchdown in 2013.

Does that mean there is gloom and doom at the position? Not at all.

The Steelers can sign Lance Moore -- the former Saints wide receiver visited them on Wednesday – and he may be an upgrade over Cotchery. They also have high hopes for Wheaton and will almost certainly take a wide receiver early in this year's draft.

The loss of Cotchery does leave another hole to fill for a team that is lacking depth at a number of positions, including running back, defensive end and outside linebacker.

But it also means that the Steelers just have to trust their draft -- Wheaton was a third-round pick in 2013 -- and do some more shopping.

They have a history of plugging openings later in free agency.

They have no choice but to do so again this year.
PITTSBURGH -- This is the third in a series in which I will examine every position relative to the 2013 season -- and take a look ahead.


2014 free agents: Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress.

The good: Antonio Brown answered any questions about whether the Steelers had a No. 1 wide receiver after Mike Wallace left for Miami with an exclamation point. Brown put together the greatest season by a Steelers receiver by catching 110 passes for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns. The Steelers don’t have to worry about Brown getting complacent as he is a tireless worker who hasn’t forgotten that 194 players were taken ahead of him in the 2010 NFL draft. Cotchery made the most of his first extensive playing time with the Steelers, catching a career-high 10 touchdown passes and showing that he can still play 10 seasons into his NFL career.

The bad: Sanders put up decent numbers in his first season as a starter but he was also inconsistent. The Steelers need more reliability out of their No. 2 wide receiver since teams will have a whole offseason to game plan for Brown. The Steelers got almost nothing out of rookie Markus Wheaton as a finger injury stunted the third-round draft pick’s development. Derek Moye has intriguing size but he hasn’t shown enough for the Steelers to count on him emerging as the tall wide receiver that the offense is missing.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): The Steelers only have serious money tied up in Brown, whose cap hit will be $8.47 million. One of the biggest questions of the offseason is what they are willing to pay Sanders to bring back the fourth-year veteran in 2014. The Steelers matched the one-year, $2.5 million contract that the Patriots signed Sanders to last year as a restricted free agent. They are likely to let the market set Sanders' price before deciding if they want to make a serious run at re-signing him. Cotchery, who made $1.5 million in 2013, has said he wants to stay in Pittsburgh and his price shouldn’t be too prohibitive for the Steelers to bring him back.

Draft priority: Moderate to high depending on what happens with Sanders. If he leaves the Steelers could take a wide receiver with one of their top picks and possibly their first-round selection. This appears to be a deep draft for wide receiver and the Steelers may be tempted to take a tall one with the 15th overall pick.Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin are among the wide receivers who fit that profile and are projected first-round picks.