After two preseason games, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to have a wealth of options at wide receiver. The team rostered six wideouts last year and will presumably continue that trend in 2011; veteran Hines Ward is always an injury risk, and second-year man Emmanuel Sanders has been hobbled after foot surgery, so depth at the position is crucial.
Predicting who those six will be is mostly pretty easy. Of course, Ward and speedster Mike Wallace are locks for the starting lineup; Sanders and Antonio Brown, who's having a ridiculously productive preseason so far, aren't going anywhere; and Jerricho Cotchery, the team's most recent acquisition at receiver, could probably be a starter for some NFL teams. This is a guy with four 800-plus yard seasons on his resumé, after all.
(An aside: I don't know why Cotchery joined the Steelers, but I'm sure glad that he did. He certainly could've filled a larger role -- and perhaps a fatter contract? -- with the New York Jets, his former employer, who are extremely thin at receiver behind former Steelers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.)
Selecting the sixth receiver is a little tricky, though. Arnaz Battle, like Cotchery, had a strong showing in the team's second preseason contest against the Eagles, catching three balls for 47 yards. However, Battle is mostly known for his prowess on special teams, a skill that's devalued immensely by an inane new kickoff rule that has already greatly reduced the number of returns we've seen in the preseason. Still, Battle has to be seen as the favorite to round out Pittsburgh's receiving corps. His most likely competition is Tyler Grisham, the pocket-sized undrafted receiver who's spent some time on the Steelers' practice squad in the past.
Whether or not the Steelers roster five or six receivers, and whether the sixth guy is Battle, Grisham, or some dark horse contender, it's interesting to think about who will see what percentage of snaps when the team's regular season begins on September 11.
Who is a better receiver right now, Cotchery or Brown? Can Sanders get healthy quickly enough to be a factor? Is Cotchery familiar enough with Bruce Arians' offense to assume the third receiver role right out of the gate?
Like I said, Pittsburgh has an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver right now. While parsing out the depth chart is a dicey proposition at the moment, that's a great problem to have.