INDIANAPOLIS — Most of the attention paid to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last couple of months has come in regards to the future of wide receiver Antonio Brown.
In the first couple of days of the 2019 NFL Combine, the Steelers have spent a lot of time focusing on their future without Brown.
The Steelers either have met with, or are expected to meet with, a number of wide receivers that are expected to be drafted in the first three rounds.
Here’s a list of the reported meetings:
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
Riley Rildey, Georgia
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
AJ Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
According to WalterFootball.com, that’s the No. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 8 wide receivers in the 2019 draft class.
The Steelers have picks No. 20, 52 and 83, and could add to that with a potential trade of Brown. Given that list of interviews, it seems a near certainty that the Steelers are planning on taking a wide receiver in the first two days of the draft.
Here’s a bit more background on the five players the Steelers plan to meet with:
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss, 6-foot-3, 228 pounds
Left school after his redshirt sophomore year, and had a season-ending neck injury in 2018, so he’s played very little college football. His career stat line at Ole Miss is 67 catches for 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He’s become infamous for his bodybuilder’s physique, seen here on the right alongside fellow Rebels wide receiver AJ Brown.
This about to bigger than Odell and Jarvis Landry when they entered the draft . Two potential 1st round draft picks from the same school. @nfl I hope you’re ready . @olemissfb @exossports pic.twitter.com/UBEJDjZBNy
— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) February 21, 2019
But he’s not a physical monster on the field, more known for circus catches than anything else. I asked him if he thought his new-found fame meant he might have to play a bit tougher:
But that’s not to say he isn’t strong. Metcalf put up 27 reps on the bench press, tied for the most amongst wide receivers. He is the nephew of former Browns wide receiver Eric Metcalf.
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds
Brown came into his own an a sophomore in 2017, when he caught 75 balls for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns, and followed that up with 85 catches, 1,320 yards and six scores as a junior before leaving a year early for the draft.
Considered the top threat on the Rebels, Brown pulled coverage away from Metcalf when they played together and is roundly considered to be the top available wide receiver.
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma, 5-foot-9, 166 pounds
The cousin of Antonio, Marquise Brown is not running this week as he recovers from foot surgery, but he did a lot in his two years at Oklahoma, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark both seasons.
He only had two years with the Sooners because he went to a junior college out of high school, mostly due to his size, and that also has many doubting that he can be an outside receiver in the NFL.
Brown doesn’t see it as an issue:
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina, 5-foot-11, 214 pounds
Samuel is another player that’s dealt with injuries. He played just five games in 2015 and three in 2017 before leaving the Gamecocks.
He got the nickname Deebo, from the movie Friday, for being a bully as a very young child, and he said he’s not a bully anymore — except for the field.
The Gamecocks used him as a rushing threat a good bit, and he averaged 6.2 yards per carry in his career in addition to 2,076 yards on 148 catches. He showed a knack for the end zone as a senior, scoring 11 times on 62 catches.
Riley Ridley, Georgia, 6-foot-1, 199 pounds
Ridley is the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and also came out after his junior year.
It was the first time he was a full-time starter, after playing six games as a freshman and eight as a sophomore, but his receiving totals don’t quite live up to the promise his frame suggests, as he had 43 catches for 559 yards as a junior.
Ridley is a player that many evaluators believe could be better than his college numbers.
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.