Richard Mann has only been with the Pittsburgh Steelers for two seasons as wide receivers coach, but he in enthusiastic about what he sees in the squad of receivers the Steelers are bringing into camp. Hired on February 13, 2013, head coach Mike Tomlin wanted Mann to bring fundamentals back to the Steelers’ wide receivers. Training camp will be an opportunity for Mann to gather his receivers, get them into the proper mindset and rhythm and turn them loose on the NFL.
According to Mann, the Steelers receivers have some improvement to make despite additions in the offseason and good workouts during OTAs and mini-camps. They will be tested in training camp against the Buffalo Bills as well. Mann feels that the workouts against Buffalo will be a good indicator of where the receivers are, and where they need to improve before the 2014 NFL regular season.
As for Antonio Brown‘s emergence to the first receiver spot on the Steelers roster, Mann has been impressed by Brown’s transition. “I think (Antonio’s) done a lot of things really well,” said Mann. “He doesn’t really look like the same guy. He’s made a transition. He’s very confident. He’s matured. He understands the concepts. He’s smoother. His body language is different.” The fact that Brown appears to be “a different guy” to Mann may indicate that Brown is looking forward to not only being highly competitive in camp, but also during the season – something the Steelers can definitely take advantage of.
Brown is coming off of a record-setting season that included a Pro Bowl appearance. Brown is hungry for his fifth season in the NFL. Brown told Steelers.com during OTAs that the offseason programs and training camp are when you find out about the guys you will be working with. “We can learn how each other works and push each other moving forward,” said Brown. “You see the hunger in the guys, you see the veteran guys taking hold of the group…you see as guys come in everyone working together and working hard. The energy of the group is there.”
Veteran free agent Lance Moore came in during the offseason and has impressed many on the team, including Mann and Brown. Mann admits that he feels Moore will fill the void that Jerricho Cotchery filled previously. “We have a couple of other guys we were looking at (in that role).” Brown said that he was learning a lot from Moore. “Everybody is motivated, ready to learn, ready to work and eager to get on the winning side of things and just get going…(Moore is) a quiet but confident guy. He’s a great guy, a veteran guy. He talks a lot with his actions and is a great teammate to have on board.” As for Moore, he admitted, “I feel like the new kid at school all over again. Just getting used to how practices are run here and how things go… I am coming here trying to work hard and show some of the young guys how to be a pro and hopefully make some plays out here.”
Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye are both improving, but Mann feels that Wheaton has made the most progress of the two. “(Wheaton) kind of went downhill (last season due to an injured finger), but he came back int he end. He played hurt. He was still hurt. I think that’s a testament to what kind of guy he is,” said Mann. “I think he’s going to compete, and I think he will end up helping us.” As for Moye, Mann feels he’ll have to earn his playing time in 2014 by showing what he has in camp. “That’s the way it is,” Mann said. “(Moye) knows that. He’s a guy who has made steady improvement from the time I came here to the present. I think he has gotten better each practice. Each time he’s on the field I think he gets player. He is a guy who has to play his way on (the team), but he has a chance.”
Fourth-round pick Martavis Bryant (Clemson) has the size, and Mann is excited about his potential. “We feel like we can utilize his talents in the red zone…So we can use him in various ways,” said Mann. “He’s also a deep threat. He does have the speed.” Brown agreed. “(Bryant) is going to help us tremendously, not only in the red zone but in the field of play. Any time you get another guy who is talented and gives us a chance to win it’s always good.”
Former first-round draft selection and free agent addition Darrius Heyward-Bey is slowly learning the system. Mann feels that with some coaching and confidence-boosting, Heyward-Bey will be inserted into the offense where he can take advantage of the skills he possesses. Dri Archer is what Mann calls the “ace in the hole, or the joker.” Besides using Archer in the offensive backfield, there is a likelihood that offensive coordinator Todd Haley and head coach Mike Tomlin will use rookie Archer is as many ways as possible to help the offense. “I think he’s going to be a weapon for us,” said Mann. Antonio Brown admitted he felt that Roethlisberger was probably “licking his chops” over Archer’s addition. “We are all excited to have so many great additions to the group and we are excited to get working…get them accustomed to what we are doing, adjusted to the plays Todd Haley calls, and get rolling.”
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