By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers took advantage of the deep pool of wide receivers during this year’s NFL Draft and finally got the tall one quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has coveted when they selected Oklahoma’s Justin Brown with the 186th selection in the sixth round Saturday afternoon.
The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Brown transferred from Penn State prior to this past season after Joe Paterno was fired, and the NCAA allowed players to transfer without any penalties. Brown played all four seasons in college, including his initial three at Penn State, and tallied 146 career receptions for 1,926 yards with eight touchdowns. He also had a nine-yard average with one score on punt returns. Brown had 73 catches for 879 yards and five TDs at Oklahoma.
Brown, who said he runs around 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash, joins Sooners teammate Landry Jones with the Steelers.
“After I found out that Landry was drafted, I definitely was excited for him,” Brown said. “And after I got the call an hour or two later, I was really excited about that. Landry and we definitely had a good rapport. He welcomed me there as soon as I stepped foot on campus, so we definitely had a good rapport. And we did from Day 1. I’m super excited to get there and start working with Coach Mann and the other receivers. So, I can’t wait to get started.”
The Steelers new wide receivers coach, veteran Richard Mann, liked what he saw from Brown the second he watched him on tape.
“I’m a big film guy,” Mann said. “He’s a big guy, (and) he’s very productive, which tells you something about the guy. I think he has good toughness, and that’s part of being a good receiver. He’ll lock up downfield, and I think that’s a part of it also. … He’s a big target, (and) you don’t want to have all the same guys (in a receiving corps). I think he’s a guy who’s primed for the strong side.”
Brown developed into one of the Nittany Lions’ top receivers and would have been a key target this past season if he didn’t transfer, but the player believed everything happens for a reason.
“The things I learned at Penn State definitely helped me out as far as my draft prospects, along with what I learned at Oklahoma,” Brown said. “So, I learned a lot of things from both schools. … I had a chance to go to a good team at Oklahoma and with a good quarterback in Landry and other great receivers.”
Brown was the second receiver taken by the Steelers in this year’s draft, as they selected Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton in the third round Friday.
“The thing I’m going to look for is where we play the guys to get the most out of them,” Mann said. “Some guys have body types that dictate they play the weak side, while others are on the strong side. And some can play the inside slot. (Wheaton) can move around, but the one thing he has is juice. (And) you have to take advantage of that.”