For a second, think back to the 2015 NFL Draft. When you heard these words uttered:
"In the third round, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Sammie Coates, wide receiver, Auburn."
I remember the fan base's reaction quite vividly, as it was my first year as editor of this fine establishment. Fans were fuming regarding not only the position selected, but also the player. Fans yelled about Coates' drops in college, as well as why the Steelers would blow a 3rd round pick on potentially their deepest position on the roster.
Then came the Martavis Bryant suspension(s), and things became clearer. After Coates' dynamic performance in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs, the tune being sung regarding Coates has officially started to change.
Now, fast forward to 2016, and with less than a week till the 2016 NFL Draft, fans should prepare to hear similar words spoken at the podium for the second straight year. Yes, I believe the Steelers will draft a wide receiver in this draft, and even as early as the third round.
If you are honest with yourself, the team will most likely spend their first and second round picks on the defensive side of the ball, and rightfully so, but they also should consider a new offensive weapon to add to their arsenal heading into 2016. In fact, one wide receiver comes to mind, and that is Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard.
For those who don't know, Shepard was a great player for the Sooners in 2015, and would be a perfect fit for the Steelers offense. With Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates used to take the top off the defense, the Steelers could use another threat underneath and in the intermediate routes to go along with Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown. This is where Shepard thrives.
Shepard doesn't have blazing speed, 4.43 was his fastest 40-yard dash time, but he has the short area burst to abuse soft coverage and utilize the underneath routes Todd Haley loves so much.
Take a look at his scouting report, via CBSSports.com:
STRENGTHS: Coordinated athlete with electric feet off the line of scrimmage and at the top of his route to gain separation and give his quarterback a target. He has quick eyes to make snap decision, tracking the ball well to make tough grabs look easy. Displays quick feet and movements at the line of scrimmage to avoid press and works well in tight spaces with his shifty moves and quick eyes.
Shepard is a nightmare to cover because he possesses the straight-line speed to beat defenders over the top, as well as the quickness and balance to change directions in a flash. He shows soft, reliable hands to pluck the ball outside of his frame, as well as the awareness and toughness to "body catch" when necessary to protect the ball.
Brings additional value with punt return experience.
WEAKNESSES: Shepard has an undersized frame that makes him often out-matched vs. physical corners. Quicker than he is fast.
No wonder he is projected to be a second round pick in the coming draft. As stated earlier, Shepard would be an ideal fit for Pittsburgh if he is still around in the 3rd round, which could be a big 'if'. Nonetheless, in a league which is becoming more and more offensively minded, the Steelers offense being able to out-score opponents could be the new trend in the Steel City, and would you complain if they did so all the way to a 7th Lombardi trophy?
Didn't think so...