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hawaiiansteel
01-27-2011, 02:09 AM
Sanders, Brown and Holmes: a Tale of 3 WRs

Posted on January 26, 2011 by ryan


When the Steelers shipped Santonio Holmes to the Jets last spring, I feel confident in writing that we all were picking our collective jaws off up the floor when we found out. I remember reading the headline and thinking, “Clearly, there’s more to the trade than just a fifth-rounder.” Nope. That was it.

Which meant the Steelers were heading into 2010 with 13-year veteran Hines Ward, second-year nine-route expert Mike Wallace, and tight end Heath Miller. Oh, and their franchise quarterback was sitting out the first four games because he couldn’t keep his willy in his pants in public. Not exactly how you draw up plans for a Super Bowl run.

But the Steelers have weathered every storm — the Holmes trade, Ben’s mandatory vacation, and countless injuries — to find themselves in the Big Game for the third time since 2005. There are myriad reasons for this, but near the top of the list has to be the play of Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, the rookie wideouts who came into camp with virtually no expectations because, well, rookie wideouts historically have a difficult time transitioning from college to the NFL.

Not only that, but Pittsburgh’s track record with drafting wide receivers (especially after the first round) can kindly be described as horrible. Since 2000, when the Steelers took Plaxico with the eighth overall pick, the WR draft haul looks like this:

2000 – 4th round, Danny Farmer
2001 – 7th round, Chris Taylor
2002 – 6th round, Lee Mays (woo hoo!)
2002 – 2nd round, Antwaan Randle El
2005 – 4th round, Fred Gibson
2006 – 1st round, Santonio Holmes
2006 – 3rd round, Willie Reid
2007 – 7th round, Dallas Baker
2008 – 2nd round, Limas Sweed
2009 – 3rd round, Mike Wallace
2010 – 3rd round, Emmanuel Sanders
2010 – 6th round, Antonio Brown

Not a whole lot there after the first round until the Steelers landed Wallace in 2009. So the pre-training camp trepidation was understandable; recent drafts suggested that Pittsburgh was more likely to miss than hit on a wide receiver. And then they showed up in Latrobe and Manny and AB started opening eyes. Here’s what I wrote after the first preseason game:

“And then there was Antonio Brown who looked a lot like Holmes — but faster — taking an innocuous pass across the middle (another perfectly thrown ball from Dixon that hit the receiver in the hands, in stride) and turning it into an 68-yard touchdown.”

And this, a week later:

“I love Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown (although I could do without all of Browns’ Holmes-esque first-down gesticulating, especially when he’s four yards short of the sticks). And even Randle El impressed me with a couple catches. And while I miss Holmes, I have to keep reminding myself that this team won the Super Bowl with Hines playing opposite Cedrick Wilson. It could be a lot worse.”

Of course, the next day Eddie B. wrote that, “The coaches believe Antonio Brown is not smart enough to grasp the routes he has to run as a wide receiver. I’m told his roster spot is in jeopardy because of it…”

And then, eight days later, in the Steelers third preseason game, I wrote this:

“I love that Antonio Brown’s teammates now call him Rod Tidwell because all the premature celebrations from the first two weeks of preseason games. I also love that Brown continues to make plays on offense even though he can’t read or write, and consequently has no shot in hell of learning the playbook. It’s a heartwarming story, really.”

(So AB has two nicknames — Tidwell and Young Money. Duly noted.)

Things turned out pretty well for a guy who sucks at reading comprehension. The first time Brown touched the ball in a regular season game, he scored a touchdown (Week 2, opening kickoff vs. the Titans). And in his first two career playoff games, he assumed Holmes’ role of finisher by ending the Ravens’ season with a 58-yard reception on third and 19, and doing the same thing to the Jets a week later on a third-and-6 catch.

Funny addendum (via Gretz at FanHouse):

Steelers traded Holmes on April 12, for a fifth-round pick;
Two weeks later, the Steelers acquired Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick from the the Cardinals for the fifth-rounder they got from the Jets for Holmes;
That sixth-round pick would eventually become Antonio Brown.

Everybody agrees that Holmes was the Steelers best wideout. But as JJ’s mentioned throughout the season, there was a silver lining to getting rid of him. First, more weed for everybody else (okay, that’s my silver lining). Second, if Holmes was still on the roster, there’s a good chance Brown — and maybe Sanders — wouldn’t have been drafted. Not only that, Holmes, like Ben, was going to miss the first four games of the season. Which meant that the Steelers would have Hines, Wallace, Heath Randle El, Arnaz Battle and Limas (before he got hurt) as the primary receiving targets for September.

I’ll readily admit that a lot of this is luck — nobody had any idea that Sanders and Brown would be such an integral part of this offense (Sanders has been more consistent, but Brown has come up big lately). And that definitely would have been the case had Holmes not been shipped to New Jersey.

If somebody told you that Sanders and Brown would combine for 44 catches for 543 years and two touchdowns during the regular season, I’m guessing you’d take it. More than that, Sanders and Brown accounted for 15 percent of the Steelers’ catches (compared with Holmes’ 16 percent his rookie season), 14 percent of the receiving yards (to Holmes’ 20 percent), and nine percent of the touchdown catches (same as Holmes). Not too shabby.

Neither player is as good as Holmes, but given Wallace’s emergence they don’t have to be. And if it means the locker room — and the team — is better off for it, then that works for me.

http://www.steelerslounge.com/2011/01/s ... ale-3-wrs/ (http://www.steelerslounge.com/2011/01/sanders-brown-holmes-tale-3-wrs/)

steelblood
01-27-2011, 08:24 AM
In the long run, this may be best for the team. But, for the Super Bowl, I'd still rather have Holmes than Sanders and Brown. I hope they prove me wrong.

ikestops85
01-27-2011, 08:50 AM
Holmes was money in the big games. Having said that he was gone after this season anyway so who cares. We ended up getting 2 very promising wide receivers because he was traded so I think it worked out for the better.

Oviedo
01-27-2011, 09:02 AM
If these young players continue to work hard it may become the best group of receivers we have had in a very long time. If Sweed can come back and contribute at all we are set at WR for a very long time.

You figure that Hines will be back for sure next year to get his 1,000th catch. That is an importnat milestone for his HoF resume. We look good at the WR position for several years in the future.

Starlifter
01-27-2011, 09:47 AM
holmes is one doobie away from a year off. the steelers did the right thing and got some value out of him while he still had it. I appreciate all the intricacies of running routes, but at the end of the day draft me the tallest guy or the fastest guy. Those are two things you can't teach and can be devastating to an opponent. our guys are very fast. watching all them run go routes against the rats was amazing.......

Oviedo
01-27-2011, 10:10 AM
holmes is one doobie away from a year off. the steelers did the right thing and got some value out of him while he still had it. I appreciate all the intricacies of running routes, but at the end of the day draft me the tallest guy or the fastest guy. Those are two things you can't teach and can be devastating to an opponent. our guys are very fast. watching all them run go routes against the rats was amazing.......

I don't miss Stupidio one bit. I have absolutely no doubt he gets popped again on a drug test sometime in the future.

Northern_Blitz
01-27-2011, 11:20 AM
holmes is one doobie away from a year off. the steelers did the right thing and got some value out of him while he still had it. I appreciate all the intricacies of running routes, but at the end of the day draft me the tallest guy or the fastest guy. Those are two things you can't teach and can be devastating to an opponent. our guys are very fast. watching all them run go routes against the rats was amazing.......

IMO the FO showed why they are one of the best in the Business by turning a 5th round pick into a starting CB and a productive WR who's come up with some big plays in big games.

Sugar
01-27-2011, 02:26 PM
If these young players continue to work hard it may become the best group of receivers we have had in a very long time. If Sweed can come back and contribute at all we are set at WR for a very long time.

You figure that Hines will be back for sure next year to get his 1,000th catch. That is an importnat milestone for his HoF resume. We look good at the WR position for several years in the future.

I thought Hines said he was retiring if he won another Super Bowl? There's a good chance of that happening shortly. :lol:

Oviedo
01-27-2011, 02:31 PM
If these young players continue to work hard it may become the best group of receivers we have had in a very long time. If Sweed can come back and contribute at all we are set at WR for a very long time.

You figure that Hines will be back for sure next year to get his 1,000th catch. That is an importnat milestone for his HoF resume. We look good at the WR position for several years in the future.

I thought Hines said he was retiring if he won another Super Bowl? There's a good chance of that happening shortly. :lol:

I can't see Hines not going for 1000 catches...he is just too close. I really think he will be back.

hawaiiansteel
01-27-2011, 04:04 PM
I thought Hines said he was retiring if he won another Super Bowl? There's a good chance of that happening shortly. :lol:

Steelers' Ward elusive about retirement

By Mark Kaboly, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, January 27, 2011

http://files.pittsburghlive.com/photos/2011-01-26/ward-a.jpg

Hines Ward
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review


While visiting local students at North Hills High School in April, Hines Ward proclaimed he would retire if he won a third Super Bowl.

Nearly nine months later and on the cusp of another ring, Ward didn't exactly quash the idea that Super Bowl XLV would be his last game if the Steelers would defeat Green Bay.

"My mom asked me that the other day. I really haven't thought about it, to be honest," Ward said. "I don't want to make an emotional decision based off that."

Ward was part of Jerome Bettis' farewell five years ago when the running back announced his retirement after the Steelers' Super Bowl XL win over Seattle in Bettis' hometown of Detroit.

Ward, 34, holds 14 team receiving records, including most yards (11,702), catches (954) and touchdowns (84). He also was the Super Bowl XL MVP.

"I know Jerome went out on top and stuff like that," Ward said. "I really haven't thought about it. I just want to be singly focused on winning this ballgame and figure out what is going to happen after that."

Ward signed a four-year contract extension worth $22 million in April 2009.

The Steelers drafted Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown in this year's draft and Mike Wallace in last year's. Wallace led the team in yards, receptions and touchdowns this past season.

Read more: Steelers' Ward elusive about retirement - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... z1CGQEhIQW (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_720036.html#ixzz1CGQEhIQW)

hawaiiansteel
01-27-2011, 04:43 PM
If Sweed can come back and contribute at all we are set at WR for a very long time.



I would love to see Sweed return and be that big WR Ben wants and that we are currently lacking. however, I won't be holding my breath...

http://www.steelersgab.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Sweed.jpg

Oviedo
01-27-2011, 04:48 PM
If Sweed can come back and contribute at all we are set at WR for a very long time.



I would love to see Sweed return and be that big WR Ben wants and that we are currently lacking. however, I won't be holding my breath...

http://www.steelersgab.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Sweed.jpg

None of us will but he seems like a good young man so I wish him the best. In the end what will be will be.

Lonbull
01-27-2011, 05:30 PM
It always bothers me that Nate Washington gets left off of these lists because he was an UDFA - the reason Fred Gibson was so expendable was because Nate Washington came in and beat him out of job. Washington ends up eventually being a starting WR in this league - let's give him and the Steelers some credit.

L.B.

Crash
01-27-2011, 05:37 PM
The sad part about Sweed is the easiest part of being an NFL WR is catching the ball.

It's also the one thing he can't do.

He gets open, he reads coverage.

Can't catch a cold. :wft

Chadman
01-27-2011, 05:41 PM
Sweed is the wildcard in the mix. If the Steelers think they can get him catching, then they are set at WR. If they don't think he'll, umm...catch on...then they might still draft a WR this year.

Sanders & Brown look good, but are they 'starters' in the NFL, or are they better used as #3 & #4 types?

hawaiiansteel
02-01-2011, 06:14 PM
Roethlisberger directs potent deep attack with speed, balance, youth

http://nbcsportsmedia4.msnbc.com/j/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/spt-110130-wallace-ward.grid-5x2.jpg

Amy Sancetta / AP
Pittsburgh receivers Hines Ward, left, and Mike Wallace are just two of the reasons why the Steelers may have an edge in the receiving game vs. the Packers, writes Chris Wesseling.

BY CHRIS WESSELING
updated 12:58 a.m. ET Jan. 31, 2011


The Steelers, a perennial NFL power, sport a 14-4 record as the No. 2 seed in the AFC. How is that they have been established as the underdog against the NFC’s No. 6 seed? The conventional wisdom is that Pittsburgh can’t keep up with the Packers’ explosive four-wide sets in a domed Cowboys Stadium.

Let’s twist that around. The last time these two teams met in December of 2009, they combined for 973 total yards in an aerial circus. Ben Roethlisberger became just the 10th quarterback since 1950 to top 500 yards in a game, emerging victorious in the back-and-forth shootout.

Officially replacing Tom Brady as the playoff winner of this quarterback generation, Roethlisberger isn’t running the “halfcourt” offense of your father’s Steel Curtain. Not only has Big Ben never been held under 20 points in a playoff game, his team has averaged 28 points in his two postseason losses. In fact, his weapons are arguably superior to the gamebreakers at Aaron Rodgers’ disposal.

Despite their reputation as a smashmouth, run-first team, the Steelers were No. 2 in the NFL in generating splash plays down the field this season while Roethlisberger led the league in deep-pass percentage. No active quarterback has a higher career yards-per-attempt average than Roethlisberger’s 8.04, and that figure has jumped to 8.5 over the past two years.

In other words, the Steelers’ identity has shifted from a hard hat, ground ‘n’ pound attack to one relying on an elite passer, aggressive play-calling, and dangerous playmakers. Mike Tomlin has eschewed tradition in pairing a physically dominant defense with a high-risk, high-octane offense.

The best receiver in the Super Bowl and the key to Pittsburgh’s downfield derring-do is Mike Wallace, dubbed the fastest player ever caught on tape by one NFL insider. After a rookie year in which he led the NFL with an average of 19.4 yards per catch, Wallace graduated to 21.0 yards per catch in 2010 while leading the league in receiving yards in the season’s second half. The big-play threat won’t sneak up on Green Bay, however. The first and last plays of the Steelers’ victory over the Packers in December of 2009 were 60- and 19-yard scores from Wallace.

Hines Ward, MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl and potential Hall of Famer, hauled in just 59 passes this year, his lowest total in a decade of brilliance. The 34-year-old struggles to separate from quality cornerbacks and is no longer a threat after the catch, but he remains Big Ben’s safety blanket. In 16 career postseason games, Ward has racked up 81 receptions, 1,103 yards, and nine touchdowns. No player in this year’s Super Bowl has more experience and sustained success on the big stage.

Ward and Roethlisberger may have a sixth sense when plays break down, but it won’t be a surprise if a pair of rookies, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, come through with the pivotal play at Dallas. Sanders and Brown quietly pushed past declining veteran Antwaan Randle El in three- and four-wide sets late in the season. Sanders recorded 24 of his 28 catches and 300 of his 376 yards in the final two months. His explosive movements and dangerous after-the-catch ability lend the offense a quick-strike element that was missing in September and October.

Packers tailback James Starks, the 193rd pick in the 2010 draft, has rightfully been credited with helping to balance his team’s offense, but the 195th pick in the same draft may be an even more unlikely hero. After entering the month of December with just two receptions, Brown finished the regular season with 14 catches over the final five games. Taking advantage of that momentum, he set up the game-winning score against the Ravens with a 58-yard reception on third-and-19 and finished off the Jets with a decisive third-and-six grab. Roethlisberger’s fourth option in four-receiver sets is emerging as the picture of reliability.

A marathon man strives for the finish, a tough runner braves a hot foot, and much more.
If the Packers’ pass defense has a weakness, it’s covering the middle of the field against strong pass-catching tight ends. Going back to that 2009 shootout, Heath Miller tormented the Green Bay linebackers with a career game of seven catches and 119 yards. The Steelers showed last week that they’re not afraid to run three tight-end sets when necessary, and Miller should have plenty of room to roam underneath with Wallace stretching the field.

The Packers may have the most balanced set of receivers in the NFL, as parroted among beat writers as well as bar flies, but the Steelers’ crew is deeper and more dangerous.

Coordinator Bruce Arians’ unit boasts the league’s money quarterback, its fastest receiver, one of just 10 players in NFL history with over 1,000 playoff receiving yards, two explosive rookies, and a fine all-around tight-end. To boot, fifth receiver Antwaan Randle El owns a career 156.1 passer rating as a gimmick specialist. Cheesehead faithful pulling for an indoor track meet may be in for a surprise when reality pushes back against perception.

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/41345160/ ... _bowl_xlv/ (http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/41345160/ns/sports-super_bowl_xlv/)

Eddie Spaghetti
02-01-2011, 06:18 PM
those two kids looked like they were having an absolute blast down there with the media today.

good for them.