Examining the Steelers wide receiver position
The Pittsburgh Steelers trade of No. 1 wide receiver Santonio Holmes has made the Steelers a weaker team.
The decision to part ways with Holmes was the right move by the Steelers organization and it was time to move on but the loss of Holmes, the teams top playmaker, could have a significant impact on the passing game which produced two 1,000 + yard receivers and a 4,000 + yard passer in 2009.
“I was very shocked. I got the call about 9:00 (Sunday) night, Holmes said today when meeting the New York media.
“I was out walking my puppy and got a phone call from my GM saying I would be traded to the Jets. I was very shocked at first, but I knew it definitely opened up a lot more doors and a better opportunity for me to start over.”
Holmes ability to take on double teams opened up space for others in the passing game including Hines Ward who had 95 receptions in 2009.
The Steelers now all of a sudden lack that playmaker who draws double teams.
Ward, 34, remains one of the most productive wide receivers in the game but he’s entering his 14th NFL season and struggled to make it through the end of last season as he was playing on two bad hamstrings.
Second year wide out Mike Wallace who led the Steelers in yards per catch (19.4) last season, will get the first shot of replacing Holmes as a starter.
Wallace, a vertical threat in the passing game has an high upside along with the physical attributes and speed to be that player who could eventually draw double teams.
Wallace’s’ development on his route running will be crucial heading into training camp.
Wallace can run fly and post routes with the best of them, but his route running in other areas is still a work in progress.
Despite the loss of Holmes, there is still a belief that the Steelers are good enough as constructed at the wide receiver position to get by in 2010.
The Steelers bolstered their depth during the off-season with the signings of Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle.
Randle El who talked extensively when signed that he would be the Steelers No. 3 receiver will likely get his wish.
Randle El is not the dynamic playmaker that he was during his first go around with the Steelers but Randle El is still productive in the slot.
He had 50 receptions for 530 yards in 2009 with the Washington Redskins.
Battle meanwhile was brought in for his special teams ability but is a solid No. 4 or No. 5 receiver.
Battle had only 5 receptions in 2009 but posted 59 and 57 receptions respectively in 2006 and 2007.
Meanwhile, the wildcard is the talented Limas Sweed. The Steelers 2008 second round pick has been a complete disappointment but a prime opportunity has opened up for Sweed with the trade of Holmes.
Sweed had a breakdown in December 2009, which resulted in him leaving the team but has been working out at the Steelers facility and there is still some slight hope in the organization that he will breakout in 2010.
Sweed possesses great size and according to one Steelers evaluator was the best route runner behind Santonio Holmes.
However, as it’s been widely noted, Sweed struggles catching the ball which has led to him having limited opportunites and only 6 career receptions in two seasons.
With no Holmes, tight end Heath Miller who had a career high 76 receptions in 2009, will play even a bigger role in the Steelers passing game.
As for potential wide receiver prospects on the Steelers radar in the draft, we’ll focus on that in the coming days.