Steelers' WRs 'all business' as running game sorts itself out
Mike Wallace raced off to Miami with $60 million worth of young money, so what to call the remaining members of the Steelers' youthful, rich and ambitious wide receiving corps?
How about this: No nickname required.
Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and new addition Markus Wheaton are eschewing any catchy tags such as the former tag Young Money — perhaps reflecting their maturity, growth, ambition and ever-greater responsibilities in an offense that could revolve around them.
“No jibber-jabber,” Sanders said. “It's all business.”
At least early in the season, the Steelers' offense could be all about the wideouts.
With the running game still sorting itself out following Le'Veon Bell's injury, Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers — nearly all of whom are in different roles from a season ago — need to be consistent, productive and dependable.
That means showing up mentally for every game, not just 11 or 12 games.
“He's got to be ready to come and play for us week in and week out,” injured tight end Heath Miller said of Brown, who supplants Wallace as the No. 1 receiver. “Emmanuel, the same thing. They should be coming into the good years of their career and we expect a lot from them.”
So does Roethlisberger, who appeared comfortable in training camp throwing to any of his wide receivers in any situation, including veteran Jerricho Cotchery, who isn't being discarded even as Wheaton takes numerous snaps as the slot receiver.
The 25-year-old Brown looked like a primary receiver as he caught three passes for 61 yards Saturday against the Chiefs. Sanders, who at 26 is playing the role Brown filled last season, is embracing the multiple layers of responsibility that go with that job, even the blocking.
Wheaton, the fast but physical third-round pick, might have opened more eyes at training camp than any other rookie. The veterans are impressed by his work ethic and humility, character qualities that are in greater evidence in the wide receivers room than they were before.
“There's always talent in receiving room, I feel, and this year, there is a lot of talent,” Miller said. “Antonio's been here for a while and he should be ready for, I don't want to say a breakout year, but a steady No. 1 receiver-type year.”
Brown showed up at training camp in a Rolls Royce. But his primary mode of transportation was a bicycle that's parked next to his locker.
It's almost as if he's sending a message: Sure, I can be a flashy form of transportation, but a reliable one, too.
“I've still got a lot to prove, still got a lot to show,” Brown said. “I want to be a leader, I want to be a guy that guys look to and feed off. A guy who understands how to go about business and a guy who provides situational plays for the team.”
That doesn't sound like a player at a glamour position who's just about the flash, dash and cash. Or the nickname.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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