Now is not the time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to relax.
After a 2016 season spent rotating through a subpar cast of complementary receivers opposite Antonio Brown, the Steelers look like they will be getting Martavis Bryant back on the field after a yearlong suspension.
Bryant was a dangerous weapon in the Pittsburgh offense in his first two seasons, scoring 14 touchdowns in 21 games and averaging 17.3 yards per catch.
Hopefully, for the Steelers, Bryant will return to his previous form – but that shouldn’t stop the team from targeting a receiver in the upcoming draft.
Bryant can be a talented deep threat and red-zone weapon, but with two suspensions already under his belt, the Steelers have to be honest with themselves about how reliable he can be. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t support his battle against substance abuse, but it does mean they should be prepared if he isn’t available for the entire season.
The Steelers’ window for another Super Bowl is closing and could slam shut after any given season with the impending retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben has been the straw stirring the Steelers’ drink since he burst onto the scene with a rookie-record 13-game winning streak in 2004, but the myriad of injuries he’s suffered since then could soon push him into retirement.
With that in mind, Pittsburgh doesn’t have seasons to waste trying to develop the handful of misfit receivers on its roster into a consistent, reliable set of weapons.
The upcoming draft is an ideal opportunity for the Steelers to strengthen their receiving corps, as they have few pressing needs to address – especially on offense.
The offensive line turned into a well-rounded, dependable group as it paved the way for Le’Veon Bell and kept Roethlisberger relatively upright in 2016. Brown is a bona fide No. 1 wideout, but secondaries are able to double cover him without a threat on the other side.
Cornerback and linebacker are the only positions that seem like they could potentially need a quality addition. In a draft filled with defensive talent, the Steelers could look to add a pass-catcher in the first two rounds.
Blazing speedster John Ross may slide down to the Steelers at the 30th overall pick with few teams needing receiver help toward the end of the first round. Penn State pass-catcher Chris Godwin or USC captain JuJu Smith-Schuster could be great complementary receivers as second-round picks.
Even if the team is assuming Bryant will be in the lineup for all 16 games next season, adding another receiver will only help to open more space for Bell, Brown, and Roethlisberger.
The Steelers’ defense is still developing with several young starters. While a dominant unit when clicking on all cylinders, the defense does run hot and cold, so it’s going to be on the offense to steady the ship.
If the Steelers want to top the New England Patriots and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, they can’t afford to not know who will be part of their starting offense from week to week.
It’s great to have Bryant back, but it’s not time to be satisfied with what’s already in-house.
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