The preseason may carry no direct implications on post-season seedings, but it is vitally important as it represents the opportunity to test new players before standings start keeping score.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have roster spots open for competition across the roster, but the receivers section of the depth chart is almost completely up for grabs, making this the group to watch in the team's first preseason game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field on Saturday, August 10th.
Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders remain the co-starters on the team's most recent depth chart. Familiar faces Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress back up Brown and Sanders respectively, but even their spots aren't secure by any means.
The third string bears a pair of surprises. Rookie Markus Wheaton is listed behind Sanders and Burress despite the rules which forced him to miss all off-season team activities until training camp. Wheaton is the only rookie not buried at the bottom of the depth chart by default. Big Derek Moye finds himself penciled in third behind Brown and Cotchery on the other side.
Rounding out the depth chart behind Moye are Kashif Moore and undrafted rookie J.D. Woods from West Virginia University. Falling in line behind Wheaton are veteran David Gilreath, and rookies Justin Brown and Reggie Dunn.
With each passing week of the preseason, depth chart seedings will change based on performance. The only players presumably 'locked' into roster spots right now are Brown, Sanders and the prodigy Wheaton. Last year, the Steelers only kept four receivers. In 2013, they may keep as many as six, depending on how players contribute through special teams.
Moye and Burress are easily the tallest of the group. J. Brown and Woods have decent NFL size as well, and are much bigger than Moore and Dunn. However, the speed chart runs almost in reverse order, with Dunn the fastest of the group - and possibly the league - and Burress the slowest. Moye and J. Brown do possess decent speed and athleticism for bigger receivers, but will need to exhibit consistent hands to avoid going the way of Limas Sweed.
Dunn and J. Brown will also be competing with fellow rookie Wheaton and veteran Gilreath for returning responsibilities in addition to receiving duties. Wheaton is currently listed as third at punt returner, behind second place Gilreath and first place A. Brown. For kickoffs, Dunn finds himself in third place behind Sanders and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling. J. Brown is not officially listed on the depth chart, but has been getting plenty of reps in practice and would not be a surprise to field kicks at some point during the preseason.
This position battle will rage on through all four weeks of the preseason, and the banners of victory are sure to change hands multiple times before final cuts have to be made before the regular season begins. Expect the first shots to be fired at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
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