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Thread: 2019 Steelers by position: WR. Are we better off?

  1. #111

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    Mason Rudolph Excited By How James Washington, Diontae Johnson Look In OTAs

    By Matthew Marczi
    Posted on June 7, 2019

    You’re not going to find a whole lot of negative reviews for players in shorts. For one thing, unless you’re really new to your position and raw, or just very unathletic relative to where you play, it’s hard to look bad without pads on and soft team drills. For another thing, it’s just the time for optimism all around, and people don’t want to talk negatively.

    A lot of people who sound like phenoms in June end up being on the bench in September, but at least for now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are pleased with what they are seeing from their young wide receivers as they look to fill the void left in the wake of the Antonio Brown trade.

    Specifically, the offense could be counting upon James Washington, a second-round pick in 2018, and Diontae Johnson, a rookie third-rounder, to work with JuJu Smith-Schuster for the offense. There are other names involved, like Donte Moncrief, of course, but these are the guys that they hand-picked to run their system.

    And Mason Rudolph was hand-picked to be capable of leading it, even if he may spend his entire time in Pittsburgh as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup. The second-year quarterback has been getting some first-team reps with the veteran taking days off, and he’s has some observations on the team’s young wide outs.
    “He’s caught about every ball I’ve thrown to him”, he told reporters when asked about Johnson. “So, that’s a good sign. But he’s just quick, man, and he’s picking up the offense, you know, very fast. He’s very coachable and he’s very hungry to learn, so that’s good to see in a young guy”.

    Johnson has spent most of the spring limited to individual drills mostly, but reportedly began working team drills this past week in the final OTAs as his hamstring injury improves. It appears as though he is shaping up to being a full participant for minicamp next week

    As for Washington, his college teammate, Rudolph said that “he’s doing great. I think he’s running better. Just like myself, he’s the older guy. He’s kind of managing and coaching some of the wide receivers along with the other leaders in that room, and just general football knowledge, 10 times better. He understands our offense”.

    “Like Diontae’s going through right now, we’re asking him to run a whole lot of routes that maybe he didn’t do at Toledo, and it was the same last year with reps”, he added. “Just reps, man, that’s the biggest teacher”.

    And that goes as much for him as for the men he’s throwing to. Rudolph himself is looking to compete with Joshua Dobbs for the backup quarterback role after spending his rookie season in street clothes as the number three after being drafted in the third round in 2018.

  2. #112

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    Diontae Spencer Saw Some 1st-Team Work In OTAs

    By Matthew Marczi
    Posted on June 9, 2019

    Here’s a slightly interesting tidbit: it’s hard to discern the extent, but according to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Spencer, he has gotten some work with the first-team offense so far this spring. It’s unclear if that means Ben Roethlisberger was throwing the ball, as Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs have gotten first-team snaps as well, but he said that he has worked with players like JuJu Smith-Schuster.

    Spencer was originally signed by the Steelers as a Reserve/Future signing at the beginning of January after Pittsburgh was officially eliminated from qualifying for the postseason and their regular season ended. A former undrafted free agent from many years ago, he has carved out a successful career in the CFL, and is now hoping to find an opportunity back in the States.

    Even after the Antonio Brown trade, Spencer was still not a name on most people’s radar. Not only did the Steelers retain Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, and Eli Rogers, they added Donte Moncrief in free agency and then added another Diontae in the draft, going for Toledo’ Diontae Johnson.

    In terms of professional experience, however, Spencer and Moncrief overshadow everybody else, even if Spencer’s time has come up north. Working in a professional environment still counts for something, and CFL returnees who actually have the talent to play in the NFL have had seamless transitions.

    In that regard, then, perhaps it’s not much of a surprise if he has gotten some snaps with first-team personnel, though it certainly was not handed to him. We have previously heard earlier in OTAs that he was turning some heads by making plays, including a pair of touchdowns in one session.

    The fact that he is also capable of serving as a return man makes him an interesting darkhorse candidate to make the 53-man roster, in competition with others like Rogers and Switzer who could also serve in that capacity.

    Yet Spencer, in spite of his slight frame a 5’8” and 180 pounds, says that he has been working on the outside, so he shouldn’t be pegged as some shifty slot receiver, either. Ideally, of course, he will be able to play at any wide receiver position, as the Steelers more than most teams thrive on that variability.

    While garnering some attention for yourself in OTAs is by no means a bad thing, however, it must be pointed out that there is a long road to hoe between now and the start of the regular season. That means that a lot of hard work and continued progression must be made, but it also means that there is time to get it done. Will he be the first CFL player since Stefon Logan to make the team?

  3. #113

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    Mandatory NFL minicamps preview: 23 more things to watch this week

    7:00 AM ET
    NFL Nation

    Now that nine teams have completed their mandatory minicamps, it's time for the 23 remaining squads to have their formal workouts. They'll do exactly that, starting Tuesday and running through Thursday.

    As we did last week, we're going over the main things to watch in this week's minicamp extravaganza. From how rookies mix with veterans to which veterans choose not to show up, we're there to cover it. So here are the main things to watch for the 23 teams practicing this week.

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    How the collection of pass-catchers replaces Antonio Brown

    During OTAs, Ben Roethlisberger spread the ball around to a bevy of playmakers. The offense believes it has at least nine capable options at receiver, tight end and running back. But minicamp, with pads on, will be a true test of growth, and Brown won't be there for that easy third-down pick-up. Expect outside receivers James Washington and Donte Moncrief to build on their strong offseasons.

    -- Jeremy Fowler

    Click here for the other 22 teams:
    Steeler teams featuring stat-driven, me-first, fantasy-football-darling diva types such as Antonio Brown & Le'Veon Bell won no championships.

    Super Bowl winning Steeler teams were built around a dynamic, in-your-face defense plus blue-collar, hard-hitting, no-nonsense football players on offense such as Hines Ward & Jerome Bettis.

    We don't want Juju & Conner to replace what we lost in Brown & Bell.

    We are counting on Juju & Conner to return us to the glory we once had with Hines & The Bus.

  4. #114

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    Donte Moncrief On WRs: ‘In Our Room We Try To Pick Everybody Up’

    By Matthew Marczi
    Posted on June 10, 2019

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into a new era on offense this season as a result of the departure of wide receiver Antonio Brown, who forced the team to deal him for perhaps a number of reasons, but which ultimately and unsurprisingly resulted in him receiving a handsome raise.

    While the wide receiver room retains the services of Pro Bowler JuJu Smith-Schuster, the rest of the faces are relatively new, short of Eli Rogers, who is entering his fifth season in the NFL—including two either missed or shortened due to injury.

    Among the new faces is Donte Moncrief, who is the most veteran player on the roster, moving into his sixth season after spending four years with the Indianapolis Colts and last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He should help with Smith-Schuster in leading the room both on and off the field. But he spoke to the team’s website about how the group polices itself, in a way.

    “As Coach Drake said, you’re always going to be as strong as your weakest guy. In our room we try to pick everybody up, make sure everybody’s on the same page and make sure everybody’s ready to go to play every position”.

    Of course that’s not entirely true. Having a star wide receiver can really elevate the entire group, no matter how bad your number four, five, or six wide receiver is, depending on how deep your depth chart goes. But it’s easy to appreciate the sentiment.

    Especially this offseason, where they know that they will have to produce by committee with Brown gone. That’s going to include a combination of Moncrief, second-year James Washington, rookie Diontae Johnson, and whoever else makes the team, such as Rogers and Ryan Switzer.

    Moncrief has been taking on something of a leadership role with the wide receivers, though not necessarily with or over Smith-Schuster, who despite being in just his third season and the youngest player has been the most accomplished of the group, and arguably the most mature as well.

    He feels if the wide receivers can work to pick each other up, then the “room will be electric”, Moncrief said. It’s a matter of being able to “take it from meetings onto the field”, he added. “If you can do that, you’ll produce”.

    As far as production goes, that is Moncrief’s goal, even as many seem to paint him into the background as some sort of insurance policy if Washington and/or Johnson are not who the team expects them to be. He signed a two-year, $9 million contract for the Steelers because he wants to catch passes from Ben Roethlisberger and score points, not to be a coach’s assistant.

    That doesn’t mean he’s not going to try to help everybody along to make sure everyone to a man in his group is the best player that he can be. Because he knows that everybody’s individual success is also the team’s success. That’s the message they’re promoting in the new-look wide receiver room, where they expect business to continue to boom.

  5. #115

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    Donte Moncrief will be a latter day Jerricho Cotchery type for us.

    He could start for us if needed, but if one of the younger kids steps up in camp, he'd also make an ideal, steady WR3 option as well.
    Steeler teams featuring stat-driven, me-first, fantasy-football-darling diva types such as Antonio Brown & Le'Veon Bell won no championships.

    Super Bowl winning Steeler teams were built around a dynamic, in-your-face defense plus blue-collar, hard-hitting, no-nonsense football players on offense such as Hines Ward & Jerome Bettis.

    We don't want Juju & Conner to replace what we lost in Brown & Bell.

    We are counting on Juju & Conner to return us to the glory we once had with Hines & The Bus.

  6. #116

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    Roethlisberger Impressed By New WRs Moncrief, Johnson As Steelers 2019 Minicamp Gets Underway

    By Dave Bryan
    Posted on June 11, 2019

    Last week during the final OTA practices, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson talked about the limited time he had recently received with the first-team offense and more specifically, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Johnson, who was the team’s first of two third-round draft picks this year, explained during that media session how Roethlisberger tested him some during those limited reps and how he felt that overall he passed. On Tuesday, Roethlisberger seemingly confirmed that his rookie wide receiver passed those tests.

    “The one thing I noticed was he caught every ball I threw to him,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I even threw him some bad balls on purpose, throw some high, behind him, just to see if he would catch them. And he caught every one. It was impressive.”

    Roethlisberger describing a rookie wide receiver as being impressive during OTAs is in itself, impressive. And it doesn’t sound like any of what he said was hyperbole, either, and that’s certainly great news.

    Also during Roethlisberger’s Tuesday mandatory minicamp session he made sure to note that not only has he spent some extra time with Johnson this offseason, he’s made sure to do the same with fellow wide receiver Donte Moncrief, a veteran offseason free agency addition, so that he can get to know him better. Moncrief talked quite a bit over the last three weeks about how important it is for him to get on the same page with Roethlisberger as quickly as possible so that the quarterback knows what all routes he can run so that trust in each other can be established. On Tuesday, Roethlisberger went as far as to name Moncrief as the player who has impressed him the most so far this offseason.

    “I’d probably go with Donte Moncrief just because it’s new,” Roethlisberger said per “I kind of know what to expect from some of the other guys. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when he came in. I didn’t know him and now just getting to see his work ethic, the type of person he is, his desire to be great, his knowledge of the offense already. We’ll do no-huddle stuff and I’ll give him a signal and I’ll be like, ‘You good?’ and he’ll be like, ‘Yeah.’ He is in with coach (Darryl) Drake every single morning, pretty much all day.

    “You see a desire and the want to be great. I’ve really enjoyed to opportunity to know him and to work with him so far. This is an awesome opportunity that he’s here and we’re getting to work together. He was with us when we went on our trip. It’s just, it’s been fun to get to know him as a person too.”

    The Steelers obviously suffered a big offseason loss in March when they traded away wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders and now Moncrief and Johnson must find a way to help fill that void at the X position.

    “It will be fun,” said Roethlisberger, when asked about the offense now trying to fill the void left by the trading away of Brown this offseason. “There are some holes that have been lost. We have a lot of guys who desire to fill those voids. It’s not going to be one person. It’s going to be a lot of different people.”

    Now that Roethlisberger has spoken about two of the team’s primary offseason wide receiver additions, it will be interesting to hear what wide receivers coach Darryl Drake has to say about Moncrief and Johnson when he talks to the media. That could happen as early as Tuesday afternoon and we’ll make sure to pass along those quotes in a future post should that be the case.

  7. #117

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    Dunno. Moncrief could be a 2. Dudes best season was 2025 w Hasselbeck tossing the ball.

  8. #118

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    I really like what im hearing with Johnson, Washington, and Moncrief. This WR corp. could be very special this year.

  9. #119

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    WR Diontae Spencer Seems To Be The ‘Winner’ Of OTAs

    By Alex Kozora
    Posted on June 14, 2019

    “Winning” the spring only means so much. Which is to say, generally little. You have 31 other fanbases talking about how they have *the* sleeper that’ll take the league by storm. And as Mike Tomlin noted, we’ve seen players kick up dust during OTAs only to flame out once they get to Latrobe.

    But we also know that in Pittsburgh at least, players and coaches have been able to identify talent from the get-go. It’s a topic we broached as the spring sessions began. Eli Rogers and Mike Hilton were identified before they made the 53 man roster.

    So if you had to pick the next in line, it’s hard to ignore wide receiver Diontae Spencer. Time and time again, his name made its way in conversation. Most recently by ILB Vince Williams, the same way ILB Terence Garvin noticed Rogers several years ago. Williams mentioned Spencer’s name in recapping some of the players who stuck out to him in Teresa Varley’s article yesterday.

    “The wide out, (Diontae) Spencer, he was killing it in Canada (in the CFL) and he was out here making splash plays,” he said.

    Based on media reports, Spencer mixed in with the first-team throughout some of the OTA and minicamp sessions. While Tomlin placed an emphasis on giving the new/young players time and there’s natural mixing and matching at all positions, especially receiver, it’s still notable.

    Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear Spencer play well. This is an environment he should be thriving in. Though undersized, he’s a tremendous athlete who ran a 4.34 40 coming out of McNeese State, as we profiled shortly after he signed. Small, fast receivers like him better excel in shorts and shells.

    Though he’s new to the Steelers and relatively green in the NFL, professional football isn’t foreign. He spent the last couple years in the CFL, breaking out in 2017 and following that up with a strong 2018 campaign. That included a 496 all-purpose yard performance with Ottawa two season ago, setting the league record. That gives him the upper hand to other rookies and new faces who haven’t experienced what it takes to play in the league professionally. How to take care of your body, how to train, how to eat, how to deal with the pressure of holding onto your job. No one gets cut in college.

    Training camp, obviously, will be the real test. That’s what Tomlin alluded to earlier this week. When the pads come on, when the defense can hit back instead of pulling up with a two-hand touch as the receivers have peace of mind running over the middle. But expect Spencer to produce splash plays. Not only as a receiver but in the return game. If he does that, he’ll be in the mix for one of the final receiver spots. At the very least, he’ll be a lot of fun to watch this summer.

  10. #120

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    Our cup runneth over with wide receivers.
    From the 2010-2019 season, (A 9 year period that the majority of Cowher's players & coaches had left) Mike Tomlin has only won 3 playoff games. And two of those wins were against back up Quarterbacks.
    Dolphin fans in the 90’s who wanted to hold on to Don Shula for what he did in the 70’s...

    Are the same as Steeler fans (of 2020 ) holding on to Tomlin for what he did in 2008.



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