NFL PLAYER NEWS

Depth of Steelers’ receiver corps outstanding

Sports Xchange

June 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm.

Jun 13, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates (14) participates in drills during minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 13, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates (14) participates in drills during minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers receivers coach Richard Mann has been an assistant in the NFL for 33 years, and he said he’s never had as much as depth in his receiving corps as he does this spring.

“I don’t know if I’ve had this much depth,” Mann said. “The depth is there. I was in Cleveland for a long time. I had three guys (Webster Slaughter, Reggie Langhorne and Brian Brennan) for six years. That was a good group of guys. They all had their own little things they did well. This group is a little deeper, but again we haven’t seen some of the guys under the gun yet when it comes to real football. We’ll see some of that up in (training) camp.”

Mann also has talent. He coaches arguably the NFL’s best receiver in three-time All-Pro Antonio Brown. Last month he added another player who has the potential to become an All-Pro in Martavis Bryant, who missed last year on a drug suspension. In addition, the Steelers drafted former USC receiver Juju Smith-Schuster in the second round of April’s draft and also have Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Justin Hunter among others who will be vying for spots on the 53-man roster this summer.

“There’s nothing like competition,” Mann said. “I love competition. It makes me a better coach. In the end, we have to make some tough decisions. That’s a good thing.”

–Steelers coaches don’t seem very concerned about the absence of running back Le’Veon Bell during minicamp. Bell has not yet signed his $12.12 million franchise tender and is rehabbing a groin injury that required offseason surgery. He did come to the Steelers’ facility two weeks ago to check in with team doctors about his rehab.

“When he was in the other day, I got to talk to him a little bit,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “He’s a great kid, and I think he’ll be ready to go.”

Bell has not been able to finish the season the past three years because of injuries. He had knee injuries that kept him from competing in the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, and the groin injury prevented him from finishing the AFC Championship Game.

Overall, Bell had more than 400 touches last season. The Steelers have never tried to limit Bell’s snap counts or touches during the regular season, but Haley does recognize they might have to do that in the future.

“He’s a guy who gets stronger every game,” Haley said. “He does not want to come out of the game, but again he’s a year older and we have to make sure we cover all that, which we will and do as a staff,” he said.

–First-round pick T.J. Watt signed his rookie contract Wednesday and he’s made quite the impression on outside linebackers coach Joey Porter through OTAs and minicamp.

“What he’s shown me so far is he’s acclimated,” Porter said. “I feel comfortable with him out there. His learning curve is real good. With the reps he’s getting, it’s helping him prepare and get more and more comfortable with the defense. With as many practices as we’ve had, I can count how many mistakes he’s had on one hand. And that’s rare. I’m good with where he’s at. Anything going forward, we’ll just see how it goes.”

Porter did not close the door on the idea of Watt starting and veteran James Harrison, who turned 39 last month, spelling him as a reserve. Porter said Watt’s experience in Wisconsin’s defense, which is similar to the Steelers’ has helped him with his transition to the NFL.

“It’s a tough defense,” Porter said. “We ask him to do a lot. He played in a similar scheme at Wisconsin, just with different terminology. Concepts are pretty much the same; different wording. He’s done a lot of the stuff we do. Once he picked up our terminology, it’s been better every day.”