Steelers Draft 2003: Wide Receivers

The top four receivers with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season caught 260 passes for 3,361 yards and 23 touchdowns to rank first among NFL WR quartets in all three categories.<br> <br> All but Terance Mathis are currently under contract and his fate is likely tied to whether the Steelers draft a receiver in the upcoming draft.<br> <br> Mathis' thoughts?

"I'm still a student of the game. I still have a passion for the game. I'm still hungry," he said prior to the final playoff game last January. "At times I get frustrated, considering what I've done the past several years. You want to play more. You want to contribute more. This might be my last go-around."

In one breath, the 13-year veteran spoke of passion for the game, frustration over a lack of playing time and retirement. Such thoughts, coming at the end of the season, are to be expected of someone who's been the consummate pro for so long. It also left the impression that Mathis could be talked into another season with the Steelers, and his 23 catches for 218 yards in limited time are proof he has something left to give.

Should the Steelers find a young slot receiver in the upcoming draft, to line up opposite Antwaan Randle El, they'll allow Mathis to leave. If not, Mathis might be available for that last go-around.


Fifth Round – Bobby Wade (5-10¼, 193, 4.66) of Arizona plays faster than he tests and is ideal for maneuvering inside from the slot position. Last season, he caught 93 passes for 1,389 yards and was the team's top punt and kickoff returner. "Wants the ball in the clutch," wrote the late Joel Buchsbaum. "Has exceptional ability to run after the catch."

Sixth Round – Keenan Howry (5-9 5/8, 178, 4.58) of Oregon is another of the Pac 10's quick and shifty players destined for duty inside as an NFL slot receiver. Howry is tough enough and shifty enough to qualify as a punt returner as well.

Sixth Round – Arnaz Battle (6-0 5/8, 217) of Notre Dame is built along the lines of Kordell Stewart, and, yes, played quarterback for the Irish before moving to wide receiver, where he caught 48 passes for 702 yards as a senior. Against Pitt, Battle caught 10 passes for 101 yards. At the combine, he ran a fantastic 6.73 in the 3-cone drill, which measures agility and quickness. If he doesn't work out at WR, Battle is athletic enough that scouts feel he could play safety as well as return and cover kicks.

Seventh Round – Wilson Thomas (6-5, 207, 4.65 estimated) of Nebraska could put some heat on Lee Mays for a spot with the Steelers, who love reformed basketball players. Thomas was a top back-up on the Nebraska basketball team. As a senior, Thomas caught 27 passes for the run-oriented Huskers. As would be expected, Thomas is a tenacious blocker.

Free Agent – David Kircus (6-1 ¾, 182, 4.5) of NAIA champion Grand Valley State and Detronn Harris (6-0 7/8, 194, 4.4) of D-2 West Georgia probably won't be available because of recent interest shown by other NFL teams. If they aren't drafted, either would become a "priority" free agent, meaning he would command more money than most free agents.


Ben Cohen is described as having "the speed, strength and natural ability to make the grade as a wide receiver in the United State," by The Times of London. Cohen is a 6-2, 220-pound rugby star "who has made the cross-field catch his trademark." He has also considered the NFL, but thinks it best to wait until his current contract expires in two years. He'll be 26 years old at the time. To show that football writers in this country aren't the only ones prone to exaggeration, The Times reports that Cohen runs the 40 in 4.2 seconds. And that's 40 meters, not yards. "There is also his touch of showmanship that would sit well in the U.S.," The Times reports. "He is a massive extrovert with the panache and power needed to succeed across the Atlantic."


He probably won't be drafted, but Jeremy Conley of Pittsburgh Allderdice High School and Duquesne University has the intangibles necessary to find his way to an NFL camp. Conley, listed at 6-2, 215, caught 72 passes for 1,215 yards last season and was named MAAC Offensive Player of the Year for the league champion Dukes. He also finished his career with a 3.2 grade-point average and was a member of the school's basketball and track teams.

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By Jim Wexell
Steel City

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