Discounting their 2014 draft picks and prospective undrafted players, the Pittsburgh Steelers have just 27 players signed past this season.
And six were selected during last year's NFL Draft.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers certainly helped themselves at wide receiver during free agency, but this year's NFL Draft May 8-10 certainly is needed to pad depth at this position. And since wide receiver is about the deepest position this year, there are a number of ways the Steelers can go.
Some believe they should take a wideout with their No. 1 pick, the 15th overall selection in the first round, while others project a defensive player -- possibly a cornerback or nose tackle -- in that spot. It remains to be seen how the three-day extravaganza plays out for the Steelers, but here's a look at their wide receiver depth chart and the contract situation for those players.
It starts with Antonio Brown, who was awarded a big contract extension prior to the 2012 season, which was just his third in the NFL. He already was a Pro Bowl selection as a dynamic kickoff and punt returner, but also tallied 69 catches for 1,198 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Brown also showed promise down the stretch during the regular season and the playoffs as a rookie in 2010 after the Steelers selected him in the sixth round.
Brown didn't make a huge splash during the 2012 season after signing a six-year, $43.04 million contract that included an $8.5 million signing bonus and nearly $4 million additionally this past season as a bonus. Brown had 10 starts and played in just 13 games due to injuries and caught 66 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns. But those numbers basically doubled last year to 110 catches for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns.
Brown was to have a base salary at $6 million this year, but $5.27 million of that was converted into a bonus to secure some cap room for the Steelers. He will make a base salary at $730,000. Brown's salary numbers for the final three seasons are $6 million in 2015, $8.25 million in 2016 and $8.71 million in 2017. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
Second-year player Markus Wheaton was injured and missed four games during his rookie season, but had six catches for 64 yards with one start in 12 games. Still he is being counted on to be the Steelers No. 2 wideout behind Brown after Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery were lost in free agency. It remains to be seen whether Wheaton takes the significant step in his game that the club expects of him.
Wheaton is signed through 2016 after signing a four-year, $2,811,376 rookie contract that included a signing bonus at $591,376. He will make $515,000 this year, $605,000 next season and $695,000 in 2015 before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Wheaton should get a considerable raise long before then if he takes advantage of the opportunities he will get.
The Steelers also signed two free agents who played for other teams last year -- Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey -- and are hopeful that they can overachieve with them this season. Moore signed a two-year, $3 million agreement last month, while Heyward-Bey inked a one-year deal for $730,000 with a signing bonus of $65,000.
Moore played nine seasons for the New Orleans Saints and was productive as a slot receiver with 346 catches for 4,281 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was a bit down last year with 37 catches for 457 yards and two scores, but the previous three seasons tallied 183 catches (61 per year average) for 2,431 yards (810.33). Moore's best season was 2008 when he had 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns. He'll be a solid slot receiver for the Steelers.
Among the remaining six wideouts on the Steelers roster, only Derek Moye has any experience. He played in seven games last season and had two catches for 20 yards and one touchdown. Moye made some nice plays during the preseason and brief regular-season action, but he also missed a couple chances to help his cause. Moye originally signed a two-year contract for $900,000. He has just this year left for $495,000. He will be an exclusive rights free agent in 2015.
Justin Brown, Kashif Moore, Jasper Collins, Lanear Sampson and Danny Coale have been on practice squads and have one-year contracts for $420,000.