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Justin Brown keeps spot on wide-receiver depth chart

After his best performance of the season against Jacksonville, Justin Brown is making the case for him to remain on the Steelers' depth chart for the wide-receiver position.

Rob Foldy

Lance Moore signed a two-year deal with the Steelers this off-season that gave the impression the Steelers would use him as possibly the team's No. 2 or No. 3 receiver; but as the season has gone on, he has seen the field sparingly despite the many formations the Steelers use with three or more receivers.

Part of the issue is that the Steelers' offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, likes what second-year receiver, Justin Brown has brought to the table so far this season.

Though Brown dropped a crucial third-down pass in the team's home opener against the Cleveland Browns, as well as fumbled the ball away to the Baltimore Ravens the following week, his effort in the running game has boosted his value in the eyes of Haley.

"He did a very good job. He was physical and he helped get the runners 3-4 yards multiple times," Haley said according to Scott Brown of "I thought he did a real good job in that and made a couple of tough catches when called upon. I thought he played good."

Brown's 6' 3", 209-pound frame makes him the largest target for Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers' active corps of wide receivers (Martavis Bryant is two inches taller and a few pounds lighter but hasn't played an NFL game this regular season). That frame not only makes him a target in the passing game but also can help him push defenders off of the line of scrimmage when the Steelers run the ball.

Brown's production so far this season hasn't been very much. Last week against Jacksonville, he matched his season and career high marks for catches, with a total of three. This season, he has caught 10 passes of his total 17 targets, for 85 yards. This stat will need to improve if he wishes to be a consistent target for Ben Roethlisberger.

Behind him is a medley of receivers, each trying to earn his keep. Lance Moore's big catch last week for a third-down conversion was only his second reception of the season but was tainted by his unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that wasn't appreciated by head coach Mike Tomlin.

Darrius Heyward-Bey keeps a spot on the roster via his veteran skills and his usefulness as solid player on Pittsburgh's special teams. Heyward-Bey's availability in this role is part of the reason why Martavis Bryant has yet to dress for a regular-season game in his rookie year.

Bryant may be the future replacement for Justin Brown in this system, as he's faster and presents a taller target for Roethlisberger. But until he proves himself to be game-ready in the eyes of the coaching staff, Brown's only competition for the third-receiver spot in Pittsburgh looks to be Lance Moore.

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