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Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Position Preview: Wide Receiver

With eleven potential receivers on the off-season roster, the Steelers enter camp with a lot of options. Unfortunately, with four spots all but locked, it's likely there are seven dogs competing for one bone.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you've read the first two installments of this preview, you know I've done a deep dive on one or two intriguing possibilities, and a light touch on the rest of the guys.

For wide receivers? Try to keep up, because this is going to hit faster than Ronda Rousey on a caffeine high. There's a lot to cover.

The Steelers currently have nine and a half wide receivers on the roster. That's eight full-time receivers and three guys who technically have no position because they have multiple positions. That's definitely too many to carry on the final roster, and several won't even be on the practice squad.

At the top of the heap, there is Antonio Brown. With absolutely no apologies to's Jamison Hensley, Brown is the best receiver in the NFL, let alone the AFC North. He has elusiveness that A.J. Green can't even dream of, and there is simply no better route runner in the league. The only realistic projection is that he equals or beats his 2014 production.

Behind him, it looks as though Martavis Bryant will enter camp as the presumed number-two receiver after the way he broke out in 2014. His biggest competition is last season's number-two guy, Markus Wheaton. Bryant's biggest advantages are his size, which makes him a much different target than Brown, and his tendency toward the big play. Wheaton and Brown are much more similar in build and, while Wheaton has made some absurd catches, he simply has not been the game breaker that Bryant was in 2014.

It gets murky from that point on. Rookie Sammie Coates, a third-round draft choice in May, has more bulk than Bryant but gives up two inches to him. Still, at 6'-2", he's a big guy with red-zone target written all over him. He has had drop issues, but he also has a history of making huge plays.

Darrius Heyward-Bey was a first-round draft pick the better part of a decade ago, but that was probably two or three rounds higher than he should have gone. While not making much of an offensive impact last year, though, he was huge on special teams. If Coates or another young receiver can match Heyward-Bey's kick coverage production, though, it could make the veteran expendable while leaving an opening for a better set of hands.

And that could be second-year receiver C.J. Goodwin, or one of two undrafted rookies: Shakim Phillips and Eli Rogers. Goodwin brings decent size and speed, and maybe just needed a year of seasoning to be ready for the NFL.

Phillips had a college-career average yards per catch of 14.8, which was decent but not outstanding. In 2014, he had 13 catches and four touchdowns in eight games. The touchdowns number is what stands out a little, indicating that he has big-play ability. But it's his size that is interesting. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have not shied away from small, quick receivers. Since last year, though, they have added Bryant, Heyward-Bey and Coates in 2014 and Phillips in 2015. All are at least 6'-1".

Rogers, really, is the lone small-guy receiver added in the last two years. At 5'-10" and 180 pounds, he is actually slightly smaller than Brown. He was far more productive than Phillips, though, and played at a bigger school. He also returned punts, which gives the team an option to finally get Brown out of that role.

Finally, we have the "tweeners" -- and by "tweener" I mean the guys who are listed at two positions, primarily because they haven't mastered either one. Dri Archer has a receiver's number but has been used more as a running back, where he played in college. But with likely few chances at either position, he will have to improve his value as a kick returner to make the final roster.

That leaves Devin Gardner and Tyler Murphy, both listed as QB/WR on the team's official roster. Aside from giving the team interesting options for two-point attempts, neither has much of a chance of making the final roster.

Whatever the make-up of the final receivers group may be, it's safe to say there are a lot of options from which to choose.

My Absurdly Early Prediction: Brown, Bryant, Wheaton and Coates are givens. If I was a betting man, I'd say C.J. Goodwin takes the fifth spot away from Heyward-Bey. There is a reason they kept him around.