clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers Film Room: Pittsburgh receivers will step up in Antonio Brown's absence

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a tall task of defeating the Denver Broncos without their MVP in Antonio Brown, but their depth at wide receiver is suited with talented players who can help Pittsburgh win.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Steelers now know they will be without Antonio Brown, their 2015 NFL MVP and the league's best wide receiver when they face the Denver Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs this Sunday.

The last time these teams faced each other, Antonio Brown went off on Chris Harris, Jr. as he scored two touchdowns against a cornerback that had not given up a touchdown for almost two full NFL seasons. Brown led the Steelers' receivers who led a 17-point comeback against the Broncos.

This time, Pittsburgh will have to rely on their depth at the wide receiver position as their offense will be without their MVP wide receiver and their top two running backs. Now that means that Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton will have to rise to the occasion as heroes for Pittsburgh's offense to flourish against the tough Denver Broncos' defense.

The good news is that the Steelers' most deep position is at wide receiver, and that both their top options after Brown made plays against the Broncos. We take a look back to see where both players showed their talents and open up for discussion how they could perform this time.

First Play:

Here Martavis Bryant does not run the sharpest route, but he shows a great deal of fire when he goes for this pass and hauls in a key third conversion by the Steelers in their own territory. Bryant will most likely face Talib again this week, but he had a solid performance the last time with ten catches for 87 yards.

He will need to make several big plays this week for the Steelers, and hard fights like this one might be common should Bryant get a lot of targets.

Second Play:

Wheaton's specialty is his route running and here you see him take advantage of Brandon Roby in the slot. As a slot receiver Wheaton can fight to get open by using his quickness to his advantage. Here he dos just that as he gets a solid release and fights to get open down field on a third down play for Roethlisberger to find an open space to put the ball. Wheaton might see a lot more of Chris Harris Jr. this time around, so it may be more difficult than picking on the young Roby, but his route running will still be key, as that was a big reason Brown was able to take advantage of Harris Jr. in the last game.

Third Play:

This is another example of Wheaton's sharp route running skills. Here Wheaton is really running and out, but Roby cannot tee off on his route because of the initial moves used by Wheaton to create space. If Wheaton can use moves like this to consistently get a solid release off the line of scrimmage on Sunday, it could make for some solid targets for Ben Roethlisberger down in some key situations.


Pittsburgh will also call upon Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates to fill in in Brown's absence, but Wheaton and Bryant are still the main players who have shown they can be playmakers. Wheaton put up over 200 yards against the vaunted secondary of the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season and showed in these clips that he can score against the Broncos. While he will not have the advantage of Brown attracting the attention of the defense all game, Wheaton can still get open in tough contested moments. While he is doing that, Bryant is still a threat as a speed demon, and Pittsburgh will still have solid options in their other backups who could make big plays on occasion for Roethlisberger.