Hopefully, Martavis Bryant can break the Steelers tall receivers curse

Joe Sargent

Maravis Bryant and his 6-4 frame is the latest in a long-line of tall receivers who have attempted to have a productive career with the Steelers over the past decade. And if the production of the lanky crew that has come through Pittsburgh since Plaxico Burress initially left after the 2004 season is any indication, Bryant won't have to reach far to out-do his predecessors.

There are some things a person just takes for granted and really doesn't pay much attention to.

If you're a fan of the Steelers, a team steeped in rich playoff and championship tradition, you may take for granted that your favorite football team has had at least one semi-competent tall wide receiver over the past nine seasons.

Every fan knows Pittsburgh's inability to latch onto a lanky receiver with the Pro Bowl-level ability to be the Gargamel to the rest of the corps Smurfs, but surely there was at least someone in there with respectable production, right?

However, after reading a Post Gazette column written by Steelers beat reporter and insider Ed Bouchette this weekend, you can color me really surprised.

Included in his story about Pittsburgh's latest attempt to find a tall drink of a receiver who can reach for the stars--fourth round pick Martavis Bryant--is this quote:

"Roethlisberger long has asked for a tall receiver but he's not had one that broke into the top four at the position since Plaxico Burress left after the 2005 season."

Actually, it's been since the 2004 season that the Steelers have been without a decent tall receiver, but small errors aside, it's still hard to believe that no receiver light-bulb changing-capable has been able to produce in Pittsburgh for almost a decade.

Jeez, no wonder Wes Lyons was such a camp heartthrob a few years ago, and the failure of Limas Sweed is still fresh enough in our minds that we are aware of his attempts to make a career in the CFL.

Thanks to  Bouchette's mind-awakening quote, I thought it would be fun to go back and review the production (or lack  thereof) of the many tall wide-outs who failed to create match-up problems for their opponents because they often failed to even get into football games (or even make the team).

Lee Mays, 6-2/193 lbs

Taken in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Mays obviously didn't come to Pittsburgh with the fanfare of a Megatron, but then again, neither did Antonio Brown when he was drafted in the sixth round in 2010, and that turned out really well.

Of course, Brown is listed at 5-10/186 lbs, and with Lynn Swann, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes as great examples, a Super Bowl MVP may be in AB's future.

As for Mays, the Texas El-Paso product managed 11 receptions for 154 yards and zero touchdowns with the Steelers, but none of that production occurred after '04, and he was out of Pittsburgh following the 2006 season.

Dallas Baker, 6-3/206 lbs

Including Mays and his stature may have been a bit of a reach for this piece, but when it comes to Baker, his stature certainly qualifies.

Baker, a seventh round pick out of Florida in 2007, only managed to make one catch for a paltry six yards during the 2008 season. And according to his NFL.com profile, that was the only cup of coffee he ever had.

That and 50 cents will get your name on a list like this.

Limas Sweed, 6-4/220 lbs

Ah, yes, the Steelers patron saint of failed tall receivers. Everyone knows about the drops and the inability to turn his first round talent into a first-rate career after Pittsburgh selected the Texas product in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

However, just to put it on record, Sweed tallied seven receptions for a measly 69 yards and no regular season touchdowns, before being cut prior to the 2011 regular season.

Had Sweed managed to hold onto a postseason touchdown, things might have been different, and I might not be writing this article, and, instead, arguing with some fan about how Sweed is better and more physically imposing than Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 218).

Plaxico Burress, 6-5/232 lbs

That's right, believe it or not, Burress is on this list after coming back to his first franchise near the end of the 2012 regular season, when the Steelers were in desperate need of a body.

And, perhaps, pound-for-pound, inch-for-inch, Burress may have had the best concentrated production of any tall receiver since he left as a free agent, seven years prior, when the former first rounder from Michigan St. pulled in three receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown over the final six games of the season.

Unfortunately, the re-signed Burress wouldn't add to that production after suffering a season (and probably career) ending injury in training camp, prior to the 2013 campaign.

Derek Moye, 6-5/210 lbs

The UDFA who came to Pittsburgh via Penn State in 2012 and officially made the roster in 2013, is certainly an incomplete member of this list. But so far his contributions have included two receptions for 20 yards and, making him a bit of a hero, a touchdown, when he pulled in a one yard pass from Roethlisberger in Week 2 of last year.

Throw in the 6-4 Fred Gibson (like Bryant, a fourth round pick who excited  the fans with his long stature), the aforementioned Lyons and his 6-8 frame, and the 6-3/209 lb Justin Brown from last year's draft class, three players who never played a real down in the NFL, and the grand-total for production of receivers 6-2 or taller  since Burress left nine seasons ago is 13 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

To put those number in perspective, Calvin Johnson and his 6-5/236 lb frame caught six passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in ONE HALF when Pittsburgh took on the Lions at Heinz Field, last November.

Of course, the one common denominator of every receiver listed here is that none of them came out of college with the studly resumes of the likes of Fitzgerald and Johnson, so that might explain the lack of production.

However, this list can also act as a cautionary tale for Bryant, who, like the others listed before him, still managed to not be a first round pick despite his 6-4/211 lb frame.

On the bright side, at least Bryant won't have to reach very high in order to out-due his Steelers predecessors of like-stature.

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