During the offseason second year wide receiver Justin Brown has been a fan favorite to make the Steelers final fifty three man roster for the 2014 season. Now that the preseason is upon us, we are finally able to get a glimpse of how well all his hard work has paid off.
Here we will take a look at Brown’s performance in Pittsburgh’s first two preseason games, and his chances of surviving cuts that are mandatory in the month of August.
Week One @ New York
Brown took the field for the first time in the game with a majority of the Steelers’ first team offense on the fifth play of the second series. Playing in multiple receiver positions, the only notable time his name was called in the first quarter was when he got into a tussle with Giant defender Quinton Demps.
The first time he would have his number called on would be in the second quarter on a five yard pass from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Showing off his ability to adjust to the situation at hand, Brown made an excellent catch from behind to move the chains on first down.
His second target would not prove as fruitful, though, as he was significantly overthrown by Gradkowski on a pass to the outside. That incomplete pass would be the last of Brown’s targets in the first half, and well into the second half of the game when, especially whenever Martavis Bryant made his entry in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Brown would make his last catch of the contest on a four yard strike from Landry Jones. He could have potentially gained more yardage on the play, but it seemed he froze up after making the reception, and was quickly wrapped up by defenders.
Though that would be the end of his receptions, Brown still stayed on the field for the duration of the game, which was promising. Closing in on the two minute warning of the game, he recovered a fumble lost by Jones when he was swarmed by New York defenders, and showed he was able react quickly to the situation.
Week Two vs. Buffalo
With the first team offense seeing extended time on the field, and the appearance of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brown did not field a catch until the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s game against the Buffalo Bills. To make matters worse, poor performance by Landry Jones at quarterback limited all of the Steelers’ receivers, not just Brown.
His first catch came on a six yard grab that was thrown by Gradkowski after Jones was benched. He would see one more target before the end of the game, but could not maintain possession when he was slammed to the ground by a Buffalo defender.
The Weeks Ahead
Pittsburgh’s final two preseason games are against the Eagles in Philadelphia, and at home against the Panthers. Brown’s performance in these games will be the deciding factor in if he makes the roster, or is destined for yet another practice squad spot.
He should not have a problem staying on the roster when Pittsburgh trims their roster from ninety to seventy five players on August twenty sixth. There are far more expendable receivers on the roster such as Kasif Moore and Lanear Sampson.
Approaching the final round of cuts, Brown’s biggest competition with be Darrius Heyward-Bey. He is playing at a higher rate than Derek Moye is currently, and will continue to do so. DHB will be out to prove he isn’t the bust that everyone makes him out to be, and making this roster could be his final shot.
Brown’s ability to play in the slot and on the outside makes him an invaluable tool to the Steelers’ offense, and his development as an athlete can be seen on the field in the past two weeks.
Pittsburgh’s receiving roster is already stacked with immense talent at its starting positions. If Justin Brown continues to prove that he is worth a coveted roster spot, it will solidify another dangerous receiver for their roster, and a contingency plan in case the worst should happen to one of their starters.