Nearly a decade ago, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ruffled feathers among his height-challenged receivers by publicly pining for a taller option. Hines Ward didn’t like it.
“I don’t hear Tom Brady or Peyton Manning asking for that,” Ward said at the time. And Ward had the last laugh, because the Steelers burned a second-round pick in 2008 on Limas Sweed, who was: (1) tall; and (2) not good.
As noted by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers have gone from having none of their top five receivers taller than six feet in 2010 to having a broad collection of pass-catchers who surpass 72 inches.
“I’ve never seen this many,” six-foot, two-inch receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “We got a lot of tall ones.”
Beyond Heyward-Bey, they have six-foot, four-inch Martavis Bryant, six-foot, four-inch Justin Hunter, six-foot, two-inch Sammie Coates, and six-foot, one-inch JuJu Smith-Schuster. Of course, the five-ten Antonio Brown remains the best of the bunch, which underscores the point made by Ward.
Roethlisberger still prefers tall receivers, since it increases the margin for error when throwing the ball — and since it gives the quarterback a target that can become an our-guy-catches-it-or-no-one-does option in the red zone. And with cornerbacks getting larger, increased height may become a necessity, not a luxury.
For now, though, all that really matters is the ability to get open and catch the ball. Over the past 20 years, the Steelers have had plenty of guys of all sizes who can do that.