The Steelers receiving corps had nearly every element that one could ask for in 2007, with the obvious exception of a tall wide out. Holmes was a dynamic deep threat, Ward has become an excellent possession receiver, and Washington and Ced are good role players. 2008 should be no different as every single major element of the passing game should be back. Nate Washington is not under contract for next season, but he's only a restricted free agent.
Age and '07 Stats: 31 years old (3/8/76) - 71 receptions for 732 yards (10.3 ypc) 7 TDs in 13 games
Contract Status: signed through 2009 with a cap hits of $7.4 million (2008) and $8.5 million (2009)
2007 Analysis: Ward may not be the same receiver he was a couple of years ago but when he's healthy he's still the toughest, most reliable wide out in the league. Even though he had a career low in yards per catch he still managed to catch over 5 passes a game and convert his receptions into first downs 66% of the time. Ward always seems to play his best in big games as well and 2007 was no different. The playoff game against the Jags was arguably his best of the season.
2008 Outlook: Wards in the process of transitioning from #1 receiver to reliable possession receiver but he's still Ben's favorite target in crucial 3rd down situations. Health is the main concern as for the third consecutive season he failed to play a full 16 games after not missing a game his first 7 seasons in the league. His contract might also be something the Steelers look at in the future. A year or two extension that makes '08 and '09 more cap friendly would be a pleasant surprise.
Age and 07 Statistics: 23 years old (3/3/84) - 52 receptions for 942 yards (18.1 ypc) and 8 TDs in 13 games.
Contract Status: signed through 2010 with cap hits of $1.5 million (2008), $1.6 million (2009), and 2.4 million (2010).
2007 Analysis: Holmes cemented himself as the Steelers' #1 receiver and one of the league's most dynamic wide outs with a breakout year. He led the league in yards per reception and his numbers could have been considerably better had he not missed three games and played very sparingly in a fourth. Had he been healthy for all 16 games his numbers would have looked something like 68 receptions for 1,238 yards and 11 touchdowns.
2008 Outlook: Holmes has Pro Bowl talent and if he can stay healthy and post comparable numbers he should be in Hawaii next year. The scary thing is that he's still very young for a guy going into his third year and has the potential to continue to grow into an even better player.
Ward and Holmes make for a solid 1-2 punch in the passing game
Age and 07 Statistics: 24 years old (8/28/83) - 29 receptions for 450 yards (15.5 ypc) and 5 TDs in 16 games
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent
2007 Analysis: I was pretty surprised that his numbers were down in every category except touchdowns especially considering the amount of time that Ward and Holmes missed with injuries. He still has wildly inconsistent hands and will drop as easy pass but make the amazing catch. For the year, Washington caught just 53% of the passes thrown his way. That was one of the lowest percentages of any receiver with at least 50 passes thown their way.
2008 Outlook: First off, Washington will be on the roster in 2008 and he should get a significant raise (435K in 2007). Washington is the only deep threat when Holmes isn't on the field and without him this team would be limited in the passing game. Washington is still young and still has loads of potential. The Steelers have two options. They can either tender him and he'd be under contract for 2008 only or they can just sign him to longer term deal this off season. These are the four different tenders that he can receive:
- $927,000 - same round as drafted (he was undrafted so forget about this one)
- $1.417 million - 2nd round pick
- $2.017 million - 1st round pick
- $2.562 million - 1st and 3rd round picks
Age and 07 Statistics: 29 years old (12/17/78) - 18 receptions for 207 yards (11.5 ypc) and 1 TD in 16 games
Contract Status: Signed through 2008 with a cap hit of $2.6 million
2007 Analysis: After complaining in training camp about not getting the ball enough, Wilson went on to have his worst season since his second year in the league (2002). For the first year since his rookie season Ced didn't have a single reception over 20 yards. Wilson's best attribute at this point is that he's probably got the best arm of the current receivers (although I'm sure Ward wouldn't agree).
2008 Outlook: If Ced makes the roster in 2008 he'll be the #4 receiver but be the second highest paid of the five. At his age, it's safe to say Cedric isn't going to improve his game and another season of his pedestrian production is not something I'm looking forward to. If he is cut, it'll save the team $2.085 million.
Age and 07 Statistics: 25 years old (9/19/82) - 4 receptions for 54 yards (13.5 ypc) in 6 games
Contract Status: signed through 2008 with a cap hit of $600K
2007 Analysis: The good news is that in his second season, Willie finally passed each one of us in career receptions in the NFL. Other than that accomplishment though Reid didn't do much to help himself, and this season is crucial if he wants to continue to have a career. Reid proved again this year that he isn't reliable enough with the ball to be a return man, but he did show potential as a receiver in brief stints.
2008 Outlook: The 2008 season is a make or break season for Willie Reid considering that he's in the final year of his rookie contract. If he has a good off season and camp, he could cement himself as the #4 receiver and make Wilson very expendable. Reid has the physical tools be a capable receiver but he'll have to prove that to this coaching staff.
Needs: Ben has said publically that he wants a tall receiver. And while some height at the wide out position wouldn't be a bad idea to seek out, I hope we don't fritter away another valuable draft pick on another Dallas Baker that won't sniff the field. Washington is currently the tallest at 6'1 but it is worth noting that both tight ends are over 6'5. I would imagine they use another late second day pick on a big receiver hoping to find a gem.