Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Inconsistent" Receivers Show Mike Wallace Is Still Needed

"They've been inconsistent largely. We've seen some things that could get us excited, we've also seen some things that are disturbing." Those words were spoken by Mike Tomlin at his weekly press conference Tuesday when asked about the wide receivers after Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. - Mike Tomlin Press Conference Video http://t.co/7tyQCCe1 

One thing is for certain, while the second through fourth wide receiver spots are set and regardless of what the depth chart shows, the only certainties at this point at receiver are those three. Here is how the depth chart looks at this point, along with the inclusion of Mike Wallace: http://t.co/2KleewfN

That said, and with the Mike Wallace holdout at two weeks now, a somewhat rhetorical and somewhat literal question needs to be asked: Does anyone even want the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots?

As Tomlin pointed out, they didn't exactly set the Chuck Noll field at Latrobe ablaze with an array of fingertip catches. Granted, catching the ball isn't the only thing a receiver does, but it's still kind of important. I mean, I was so frustrated by all the reports that I thought I should get ready to suit up. Don't laugh, either. I've been practicing, I'm around (1)4.5 in the 40 yard dash now.

Seriously, though, the players in question are the 7th round draft pick Toney Clemons, undrafted free agents Paul Cox (6'4" 205 lbs. 4.55/40), Marquis Maze (5'8" 186 lbs.), Jimmy Young (6'0" 205 lbs), Tyler Beiler (6'0" 190 lbs) & offseason pickup Derrick Williams (5'11" 197 lbs. 4.68/40 who played a lot of special teams for Detroit Lions in 2009-2010).

Toney Clemons has good size (6'2" 210 lbs.) and very good speed (4.43/40 at Pro Day and a reported 4.38/40 top speed), to be sure. He has been able to get open with pretty good route-running ability and his speed. He made some tough catches, including a couple where he used his size and outreached the cornerbacks for the ball.

Clemons' hands have let him down more often than not, though, as he's consistently dropped balls in practice. That's too bad because he does have a nice burst and is an aggressive pass catcher. Still, he epitomizes what Tomlin said about being "inconsistent" even more so because of being an actual draft pick. 

The preseason games, which start Thursday at the Philadelphia Eagles, will give Clemons the opportunity to rid himself of a reputation he never should've gained in the first place. A reputation which caused someone (I can't remember whom) to say that he may as well 'drop the "e" in his first name because he's dropped everything else.' Ouch!

Of the other receivers in Training Camp, the two who have the only real opportunity to make it are Tyler Beiler and Marquis Maze. 

Beiler is the bigger of the two, but Maze has attributes and abilities Beiler doesn't. The former national champion was the Crimson Tide's leading receiver last season is also an adept returner. The issue, as was said, is his size-he'd be the smallest receiver on the team. If it comes down to that, Maze being a sixth wide receiver, which is how many the Steelers generally keep, his future with the Steelers is on special teams. 

The thing about that is, though, the Steelers already have a smallish playmaker who could fill that role. I suggested that about a month ago, that Chris Rainey could be listed as a wide receiver, mainly because of the logjam at running back. Nonetheless, it's a feasible idea, one that was even suggested on the 8/6/12 edition of Talkin' Steelers Football. 

Rainey isn't an NFL established receiver, though. So, considering all that's been said, the luxury that is Mike Wallace becomes more apparent. 

Even though I refer to him again as a "luxury," that luxury affects the offense in more ways than just great speed and catching passes. A weapon such as Wallace has the ability to dictate coverage by drawing double-teams and shifting coverage by the safety to his side. It can also disallow the safety to jump routes as he has to respect the "Oh, sh**!" speed that Wallace has. 

He will do so in a Steelers uniform this year as well. Kevin Colbert said in no uncertain terms that Wallace will be in Black and Gold, that he will not be traded.

"Mike’s not available," Colbert told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. "We have as big a need for a big-play receiver as anybody. We want him to be here and Mike wants to be here long term. So he’s not available.” An update to that sentiment can be found here: http://t.co/XEqdr9ou 

Don't misunderstand, it isn't as if the Steelers don't have speed at wide receiver, as Sanders is an official 4.41/40, Brown is 4.5/40 and Cotchery is no slouch. But even just the THREAT of 4.33/40 (or better) can cover over the 'inconsistency' of what else may be going on, or whatever else may be lacking on in the receiver corps.