After going just 8-8 last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost key wide receiver Mike Wallace to free agency. He was the Steelers top receiving threat and a particularly strong deep threat as well as being the Steeler top ranked in fantasy football in 2012. As the team tries to get back into the playoff hunt, will Ben Roethlisberger have enough reliable targets to throw to?
With Wallace gone, the Steelers now have Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as their top two options. Jerricho Cotchery will more than likely slot in at the #3 option, with Plaxico Burress and Markus Wheaton likely battling for the #4 spot. While all five of those receivers are talented, no single player is going to be able to replace Wallace’s productivity. Instead, it is going to take a collective effort to boost the passing attack.
At 5’10” and just 186 pounds, Brown does not have the size of most #1 receivers in the NFL. However, Todd Haley’s offense calls for a lot of short passes, and that is one of the strong points for the quick receiver. His numbers were down last season, but with the high-ankle sprain behind him, he could be a solid target.
Sanders seems like the player most likely to breakout as a true Wallace replacement, and Roethlisberger was so found of him that he begged management to match his offer sheet from the Patriots. He is not a big play type of guy just yet, but he does have some impressive quickness to go with reliable hands.
Of course, for the Steelers to really have a solid passing game, they will need to have things balanced out by a decent running game. Last year, they were awful running the ball, but Le’Veon Bell has a chance to help turn around that part of the offense. His running threat can open up things for Roethlisberger when the game is on the line.
Wallace is a tough player to replace, but the Steelers feel as though they have enough depth to make up his production collectively. With a healthy Roethlisberger, the passing game should be just fine in 2013.