Ike: Steelers' WRs Growing Up

Ike Taylor has an eagle eye for receiving talent. The Steelers' cornerback talked about those who've impressed him so far.

LATROBE -- Ike Taylor has seen wide receivers come and go during his time with the Steelers.

Since 2004, the Steelers' cornerback has covered everyone from Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Lee Mays through Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Derek Moye.

On the second day of camp in 2009, Taylor called Mike Wallace the fastest receiver he had ever covered and predicted stardom for the rookie. So it's only natural -- in a camp in which the Steelers are trying to replace their numbers 2 and 3 receivers -- to ask Taylor what he thinks of the incoming crop.

"Growing up. Growing up," Taylor said of the Steelers' receivers. "Before JB (Justin Brown) broke his nose, he was growing up. Lance (Moore is) savvy, super smooth. AB is AB. He come(s) to work 24/7. (Markus) Wheaton is coming into his own. A little bit more confidence with Wheaton and the sky's the limit. I don't think he know(s) how good he can be. That's how I look at Wheaton. But the sky's the limit for Wheaton. (Darrius) Heyward-Bey, other than his injury (concussion), he came through. (He was) the seventh pick in the first round (2009), so we all know what he can bring to the table."

Right now, Wheaton is the No. 2 receiver opposite Brown, and it doesn't appear as if anyone's going to take that away from him. Last year's third-round pick not only has soft hands, he has the body control of an acrobat and at 5-11, 182 is a strong runner after the catch.

"Deceptive speed," Taylor said of Wheaton's most impressive attribute. "And for his size, he gets out of his breaks fast. Usually, guys who run fast, it takes a little bit for them to break down and cut. With Wheaton it's one cut and he's out of his breaks. When you've got a guy his size who can break out of his breaks like Antonio Brown, it makes it difficult because you're chasing, for one, and then once he catches the ball he can break away and do something with the ball. That's what makes Wheaton so good. He's a four-year college player and he's a savvy route runner."

At the opposite end of that spectrum is rookie Martavis Bryant, who, at 6-4, 211 was only a three-year college player and isn't such a savvy route-runner. His 4.4 speed makes him a deep threat, but he takes too long to get into and out of his breaks.

"He doesn't need to," Taylor said. "He can be our Mike Wallace. You just never know how good guys can be when they're that tall, that athletic, and faster than most people would think he is. Usually tall guys need to run the short-man routes. When you've got a tall guy who can run short-man routes than it's something different. But for him, he's just got a few routes he needs to work on. I'm sure the coaches are going to use his ability, and his ability is going up and catching the ball."

That's what Bryant did at Saturday afternoon's practice. He made a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone while fighting off a defensive back with his other hand. He also made a few over-the-shoulder sideline catches while keeping his feet inbounds.

"(Saturday) was my best practice but I've got to continue to be consistent," said Bryant. "I don't want to get complacent with what I'm doing right now. Just got to continue to work."

Bryant mentioned "work" or "prepare" 11 times in the 12-question interview. It's part of a continuing curriculum of hard coaching he's received since the spring.

"I like hard coaching," he said. "It motivates you. It drives you to keep working."

Wheaton is more of a self-motivator. He often stays up until 1 a.m. watching tape.

"I'm in the film room all the time by myself," Wheaton said. "I stay up late sometimes, which probably isn't good but I'm always checking out my game and trying to figure out how I can get better."

Wheaton says he goes downstairs, often with Brown, his roommate.

"We're both trying to grow together," Wheaton said.

Taylor did say that Wheaton needs more confidence in himself. Are the late-night film fests a sign that he's worrying too much?

"No, not really," Wheaton said. "There've been times I fell asleep in the meeting room and thought I had better get to bed, but outside of that no."

Wheaton put his run-after-catch skills on display during Sunday's practice. He took one short pass, made a move that caused safety Jordan Dangerfield to fall down, and ran for a 25-yard gain.

Bryant, though, made the catch of the day. Bruce Gradkowski averted a sack by tossing a long pass down the sideline that appeared to be a throwaway. But Bryant shifted gears and ran it down by stretching and catching it with his fingertips for a 35-yard gain.

Of course, there was Bryant' flip side. In one of the several red-zone sessions Sunday, Bryant mistimed his route by a step and slammed into teammate Danny Coale as Landry Jones had to take a sack.

Brown also showed his youthful inconsistencies by dropping one pass over the middle, but he later stretched past the end line of the end zone with his heels dug inbound to haul in a beautiful fade pass from Jones.

Working through inconsistencies is a part of the maturing process, but the big plays are starting to outnumber the mistakes.

"We've got guys down the line." said Taylor. "It's going to be hard for the coaches, but I like what I've seen from the receivers."

NOTES -- Ryan Shazier limped off the field after he shot a gap and tackled Le'Veon Bell behind the line of scrimmage. He had his right knee iced immediately, but Mike Tomlin said it was only "a little boo boo." ... Tomlin said there was "nothing of any significance" on the injury front. Steve McLendon did miss his second practice, but this time stood on the sideline to watch Cam Thomas play NT and Stephon Tuitt play LDE. Also missing practice were Jordan Zumwalt (groin), Loni Fangupo, Troy Polamalu (day off), Ben Roethlisberger (day off) and Rob Blanchflower (ankle).

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