BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 4: Wide receiver Toney Clemons #7 of the Colorado Buffaloes catches a 10-yard touchdown pass in the end zone ahead of safety Tony Burnett #34 of the USC Trojans during the fourth quarter at Folsom Field on November 4, 2011 in Boulder, Colorado. The Trojans defeated the Buffaloes 42-17. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
At some point in Toney Clemons' wayward collegiate career, he got it.
Nevermind that he was good enough to earn a roster spot at Michigan his freshman year. Equally dismissive is the fact, a year and a half later, he took his 12 career catches to Colorado. Then a redshirt year. Then some more lack of production.
His final five games, though, playing for a brutal Buffaloes squad, 25 catches, 476 yards (19 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
A total of 31 NFL teams passed on Clemons' four and a half years of collegiate sub-mediocrity. The Steelers drafted the last five games in the 7th round. And now, Clemons looks poised to take the final receiver roster spot behind one of the league's best four-deep group.
It's odd a team would simply give a roster spot to a 7th round pick in that year's draft. But when you have a depth chart reading Wallace, Mike; Brown, Antonio; Sanders, Emmanuel; Cotchery, Jerricho; you're able to do pretty much whatever you want with that last spot.
And this isn't exactly a team lacking drafting success at the receiver position. None of the aforementioned Four Deep From Hell were taken earlier than the 82nd overall pick (Sanders). No team has the depth at receiver the Steelers do without having invested a pick in the position.
The main competition Clemons will see from the field comes from Tyler Beiler and David Gilreath. Beiler was undrafted out of Division III Bridgewater College in Virginia, and he has probably the best combination of size and speed outside of Clemons.
Gilreath, a slight and fast receiver from Wisconsin, has return skills and could make things interesting from a special teams standpoint. The same could be said for Marquis Maze, who, playing for Alabama, was a pulled hamstring from returning a punt for a score against LSU in the national championship game. Maze is listed at 5-foot-8, meaning he's 5-foot-7 or less, and would need a stellar camp both as a receiver and a return man to fight off players better suited to play a position along with handling return duties.
It wouldn't be surprising to see the Steelers bring a veteran longshot in, if for no other reason, to push the young group of receivers and see how they respond to it. Regardless of Clemons' ability (he was said to flash a lot of talent during minicamp, but looked less-than-average at other times), a team isn't going to give a jersey to a rookie for no reason other than he's the best one left on the roster. At the same time, a veteran, even at the minimum, would be slated to make more than twice what Clemons will in the 2012 season, and could shy away from signing with the Steelers.
Knowing that, the Steelers may simply let the younger guys do battle. In that scenario, the Steelers are looking for the last five games version of Clemons, not the previous 4.5 years.