Steelers WR Justin Brown eyes new targets
Steelers receiver Brown eyes new targets
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
May 20, 2014
In a perfect world, Steelers receiver Justin Brown would not have participated in rookie minicamp for a second consecutive year. The camp’s name suggests Brown was out of place, which he was as the only 2013 draft pick that had to take part in the three-day camp.
Brown was selected in the sixth round last year and did not make the 53-man roster. He spent the season on the practice squad, which made him eligible to participate in the camp for the second year in a row with other members of the 2013 practice squad, the 2014 draft choices and undrafted free agents.
Brown, who came to the Steelers after playing for Penn State and Oklahoma, said his second go-round at rookie minicamp stood in stark contrast to his first.
“It’s a lot different having that year under my belt, just knowing the system,” Brown said. “My first year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Now, I’m more comfortable and I can just play.”
Brown hopes to carry that confidence over into offseason training activities, which begin next week at the team’s training facility on the South Side. He will be in a battle to make the 53-man roster again this season.
The Steelers lost two of their top three receivers to free agency when Emmanuel Sanders signed with Denver and Jerricho Cotchery signed with Carolina. They signed Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey in free agency and drafted former Clemson speedster Martavis Bryant in the fourth round to go along veteran Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, the third-round pick in 2013 who figures to begin training camp as the other starter.
Moore was signed to replace Cotchery, and Bryant figures to make the team. That leaves one spot for Brown, Heyward-Bey and Derek Moye, who beat out Brown for the final roster spot last season.
“I’m not worried about the numbers game,” Brown said. “I’m trying to get better and not getting caught up in who they drafted. You’ll have to compete no matter what. This is the NFL.”
Brown and Moye played together at Penn State, and Moye, an undrafted free agent, beat the odds by taking a roster spot from a draft pick. Moye made the team after a strong preseason and ended up dressing for eight games. He caught two passes for 20 yards, including one for a touchdown in the second game of the season at Cincinnati.
One advantage Brown has over Moye is his ability to play special teams. He is working with special teams coach Danny Smith this spring in hopes of making himself more valuable to the coaches. Moye was not deployed much on special teams last season.
“They say all the time if you’re not a starter you have to be on one of the special teams, so that’s what I’m shooting for,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I have to do to contribute to the team. Having another year under my belt and being more comfortable with the offense and with Danny Smith on special teams, I’m doing whatever I can do.”
In the end, it will come down to how much Brown has improved as a receiver. As a rookie, he knew only one position. He’ll enter this season with the ability to play all three.
Brown is hoping his year as an understudy leads to a larger role on the active roster this season.
“I just worked on the little things, working on the top of my breaks, using my body,” Brown said. “I spent a lot of time watching the vets in the last year, guys like [Cotchery], [Brown] and Emmanuel [Sanders], watching film of them, trying to be a better all-around football player.
“You definitely get a better feel for it. That year being on the practice squad, watching the vets and the starters and learning from them, I tried to add some things to better myself as a receiver.”
Justin Brown working with special teams coach Danny Smith
By Neal Coolong on May 21 2014
Justin Brown isn't going to let his opportunity to make this team pass without having explored every option he can to provide value.
Steelers second-year wide receiver Justin Brown is looking to disprove the adage "dance with the date you brought."
While he's hard at work honing his skills in he art of playing wide receiver in the NFL, he also recognizes the best chance he has to continue that work, and continue getting paid, is to provide value as a special teams contributor.
Post Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo spoke with Brown for a piece in Wednesday's P-G, where Brown spoke about his efforts to make this team in whatever way he can.
"They say all the time if you’re not a starter you have to be on one of the special teams, so that’s what I’m shooting for," Brown said, quoted by Fittipaldo. "I’m just trying to do whatever I have to do to contribute to the team. Having another year under my belt and being more comfortable with the offense and with Danny Smith on special teams, I’m doing whatever I can do."
The Steelers lost a key kick returner when Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Denver Broncos, and former Steelers running back and kick returner Felix Jones isn't expected to return this season. Those two accounted for 33 of the 43 kick returns the Steelers had in 2013. The Steelers selected Dri Archer in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and he has to be looked at as the favorite for kick returning duties this year. The Steelers haven't typically entrusted return duties to rookies from the start of the season, so Brown may have something of an opportunity come training camp to establish himself as a dual-purpose player.
That may be his key to beating out Derrick Moye, Darrius Heyward-Bey and others for the team's final receiver spot - the Steelers are expected to keep five receivers, and neither Moye nor Heyward-Bey have special teams experience. That isn't to say neither are looking to do the same thing Brown is.
And if they aren't perhaps they should start looking into it. The first four receiver spots are pretty much set; Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant won't have their roster spots challenged. Whichever of the three, Justin Brown, Moye and Heyward-Bey, will win that spot may come down to the one who brings the most to the team.
I like this kid. Liked what I saw last preseason. He has size. He will probably beat our Bryant.
There is a real possibility that Bryant hits the PS.
Originally Posted by Shawn
Yeah.. that quote definitely gave me the same feeling
The first four receiver spots are pretty much set; Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant won't have their roster spots challenged.
Who ever wrote that is not the end all authority on who makes the roster, and they don't know how to use a semicolon properly. A colon should have been used in that application.
Originally Posted by feltdizz
anything is possible but it's very unlikely. another team would claim him immediately, the Steelers are intrigued by Bryant's athleticism and long-term potential and aren't going to take the risk of losing him right away.
Originally Posted by Shawn
Now that they have a tall WR in Bryant I think it's Moye who should be worried about making the team. And he doesn't play ST. Moye not making the roster doesn't make a lick of difference. 2 catches isn't all that hard to replace. Brown going back for another rookie camp and working directly with the ST coach shows his head and attitude are in the right place. Lots of people thought he should have gotten the call over Moye last season without adding ST play.
Exactly. Bryant will get every chance and then some. Moye and Brown are on the hot seat. Not Bryant.
Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel
I like Brown. I think the kid has natural talent. Can't wait to see what he can do a year later. I think he's got as good a shot at starting as anyone assuming Moore isn't a consideration on the outside.