When the Pittsburgh Steelers are mentioned, the first thing most football purists think is the defense. The Steel Curtain dominated the league for years. If the offense is mentioned, usually the running game would venture into the conversation. But the Steelers have suddenly become known for producing dangerous wide receivers.
The current group of receivers is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. This season, the Steelers have had only three games without a receiver gaining 100 yards or better. In Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Heath Miller took up the slack and had 10 catches for 105 yards. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant still came close with a combined total of 96 yards.
But who’s the best? Which of the Steelers’ deep threats is the most dangerous? In a Week 12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Markus Wheaton hauled in nine receptions for 201 yards. Even though Brown and Bryant were dealing with double coverage, they managed to pile up 120. Who gets the blanket coverage when they’re all so lethal?
Week 10 was a game to remember for the Steelers. The Browns may use the footage for showing the improper way to defend Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown. Both wideouts caught fire and were dialed into the same frequency. Bryant led the way with 178 yards and a touchdown. Brown didn’t want to be left out and had a show of his own. He snagged 10 passes for 139 yards and had two trips into the end zone.
The Steelers hosted the Oakland Raiders in Week 9, and it was an aerial battle between Derek Carr and Big Ben. But before Roethlisberger left with an injury, he found his favorite target often and with success. Ben and Brown hooked up for 284 yards. According to ESPN, he had 180 of those in the first half of the game.
The numbers are astounding. The players are phenomenal. With so many deep, dangerous threats, the Steelers have effectively taken away the ability to shut down the passing game. The air attack has been uncanny. Over the past four games, the Steelers have thrown for 1,645 yards. That’s an average of 411.3. Those numbers haven’t been seen since the days of Air Coryell.
In Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have a quarterback with an unmatched ability to throw the deep ball. The receivers are well aware of that.
“We have the best quarterback in the NFL,” Brown gushed. “We have a great offensive line and running back. Each and every one of us takes pride in the game, and we’re doing a great job and getting better each and every week as a team.”
That chemistry is certainly felt with the Steelers’ wide receivers. They’re making defenders slip, hold, grab, and stumble as they try to keep up with the speedy threats.
“As we gel closer together and build chemistry, things are clicking a little better,” receiver Markus Wheaton said.
The carnage continued on Sunday Night Football as the Steelers destroyed the Colts. Brown caught eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown after he replaced Jacoby Jones, who fumbled twice in the first half on special teams. Roethlisberger completed 24 of 39 passes, four of them to Bryant for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Once again, the Steelers boasted two wideouts with over 100 yards. It’s starting to become a habit with the men in Black and Gold. Teams prepare for the onslaught and still get torched downfield. The dilemma is one that can make opposing coaches reach for the aspirin. But the Steelers are happy producing dangerous receivers that translate success into victories.
[Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]