A number of draft analysts and publications are buying into the theory that the Pittsburgh Steelers will take a wide receiver no matter what in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft to make up for the loss of Antwaan Randle El and Plaxico Burress in free agency in the past two years.
What those people fail to realize, however, is that Burress and Randle El, while serving as the team's second-starting receiver, have combined to catch 70 passes in the past two seasons. That's right, 35 catches each.
And neither player was even the team's second-leading receiver in either of those two seasons. Burress ranked third on the team behind Hines Ward and Randle El in 2004, while Randle El was third behind Ward and rookie tight end Heath Miller in 2005.
All the Steelers did in those two seasons was become the first team in AFC history to go 15-1 and follow that up by winning the Super Bowl.
The team made up for the loss of Burress in 2005 by drafting Miller and signing wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
It will make up for the loss of Randle El by elevating Wilson to the starting lineup and expanding Miller's role in the passing game.
Miller caught 39 passes for 459 yards and six touchdowns in 2005 despite getting off to a slow start. Remember, he had just two catches in the team's first three games.
An expanded role by Miller will have him catching at least 60 passes in 2006, a number comparable to Burress' best seasons in Pittsburgh.
Remember, this is the Steelers we're talking about and they aren't suddenly going to start winging the ball about indiscriminately again as they did in the ill-fated 2003 season. Head coach Bill Cowher learned his lesson that season.
Besides, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger matures and continues to get better, he'll continue to make the receivers around him better as well. Because of that, the team will feel comfortable taking a receiver in the middle rounds and allowing him to develop.
After all, who ever heard of Donald Driver before Brett Favre made him a household name?
The Steelers don't like to be painted into a corner on draft day. Everything they've done this offseason has been to assure that won't happen in this year's draft as well.
The only way they'll take a receiver in the first round of this year's draft is if he is the best player available on their draft board when their turn to pick arrives. Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter