On Tuesday, Mike Tomlin said that the Steelers offense could be the "very best" in the NFL in 2015.
A soon to be rookie from his alma mater might help Tomlin's words come true.
Finding a consistent slot receiver was one facet of the Steelers offense that was left unanswered throughout most of 2014. Lance Moore struggled with injuries, and Justin Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey failed to distinguish themselves and take a firm hold on the position.
While the Steelers have more pressing matters to address in this year's draft, finding a good slot receiver that can fill that void should be on Pittsburgh's checklist come draft weekend.To fill that spot, Tomlin might not have to look past his old school to find the answer.
William & Mary senior receiver Tre McBride has many attributes that the Steelers could use. The 6'0'', 210-pound MrBride has been praised for his toughness when running routes over the middle, while also showing a knack for making tough catches in traffic. An All-Colonial Athletic Association first team receiver the last two seasons, McBride used his size and speed to successfully challenge defenses vertically, as evidenced in this highlight video. While he did play in a smaller conference, McBride made standout plays whenever the Tribe faced power conference teams, exemplified by his balletic catch at the 1:15 mark against West Virginia and at the 2:20 mark against Virginia Tech.
What really makes McBride stand out is his kick-return ability, something else the Steelers need to shore up before the 2015 season begins. McBride averaged nearly 28 yards per kick-return in 2013 while being named the CAA Special Teams Player of the Year in 2013, as he paced the CAA in kick-return yardage.
McBride's draft bio on NFL.com praised McBride for his size, physically and his ability to dominate opponents when the ball was in the air.
"Makes circus catches look easy and appears fearless in the air. Elite high-point ability with outstanding body control, ball tracking and concentration. Plucks the ball out of the air. Excellent catch radius that saved his quarterback one or two incompletions per game. Will catch in traffic with ability to tuck-in, absorb blow and hang onto ball. Adjusts well to low throws. Competitive runner after the catch. Improved route runner from 2013 to 2014. Adjusts to find open space in zone and has feel for defender."
The major criticism of McBride is his need to improve selling his routes, something that will surely improve after working with Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in the NFL today.
NFL.com's bottom line on McBride: "Teams will have to answer questions about his level of ability to get open because he has the art of catching the ball down pat. Vertical speed and separation quickness appear to be average considering his competition level, so teams must figure out whether to keep him outside or utilize his size and toughness over the middle in the slot."
McBride is slated to be drafted sometime between the fourth and sixth round on draft weekend. If he is available and if the Steelers are still in need of a slot receiver, McBride could be a steal, and like Brown, could become another late-round receiver to shine on the Steelers' roster.