When Bruce Arians and company called on John Brown in round three of the 2014 NFL Draft, many scratched their heads, and even more so when Walt Powell was taken in the sixth round. But the reality was wide receiver is always in play when Bruce Arians is a coach on the team.
Bruce Arians teams have drafted a plethora of wide receivers, and when Arians took over the Steelers as offensive coordinator in 2007, he started to change the direction of the offense from the Steelers of old.
As he moved the direction of the Steelers offense, you started to see the desire Arians has to get the ball all over the field, into different players hands, and to let them make plays.
In 2009, the Steelers had three players catch over 75 passes, and four who had at least 750 yards receiving on the season, including a third round rookie in Mike Wallace, who only caught 39 passes to gain his 756 yards and six touchdowns.
In that season, Hines Ward caught 95 balls for over 1,100 yards and Santonio Holmes had 79 catches for 1248 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Heath Miller chipped in 76 catches for 789 yards to form quite the quartet of targets for Ben Roethlisberger.
The problem with the 2009 Steelers was simply they didn't win enough games, as they finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs.
In 2011, the Steelers produced two Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Wallace and former sixth round pick Antonio Brown. The Steelers won 12 games that year and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
When Arians moved to the Colts, he inherited a young receiving core with a 34-year old Reggie Wayne and rookie quarterback, no one could imagine the success the passing game would have.
Wayne finished with 106 receptions and 1,355 yards while the next two receivers finished extremely well, as Donnie Avery had 60 catches and 781 yards and rookie third rounder T.Y Hilton finished with 50 catches and 861 yards and seven touchdowns.
Rookie tight end Dwayne Allen finished off with 45 receptions and 521 yards as well and the Colts finished a surprising 11-5 and a first round exit in the playoffs.
We saw what Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald did with Carson Palmer in 2013, but it was maybe the third best performance by a group of receiving options under Arians tenure as an offensive coordinator or head coach.
What do the Cardinals need from their offensive weapons to take the next step?
When you look at the history of Arians coached teams you see guys like Fitzgerald and Floyd on the roster, but usually only one of them. I personally believe Arians having to find a way to incorporate both Fitz and Floyd was tough for him, that's why we didn't see a ton of consistency from Floyd last year.
I also believe that Floyd's talents mean he could be a star in Arians offense if Bruce, Carson and Floyd can find some consistency in his usage and his game. Floyd had nearly 40% of his total yardage in three games, weeks 10-12 of the season.
Fitzgerald was bothered by his hamstrings -- that's the story -- but he has to produce more from his touches in 2014 if the Cardinals offense is to take off like many think it should.
Lastly, the Cardinals have to find that elusive third option.
Andre Roberts, Rob Housler and even Andre Ellington were nice pieces, but none of them emerged as dynamic third options on offense.
This is especially true when you look at the fact that Michael Floyd was the big deep threat for the team in 2013.
John Brown, Ted Ginn, maybe even John Carlson or Troy Niklas need to emerge as viable third options... Or Andre Ellington has to take the next step as a receiving threat.
The Cardinals have the names, the players and personnel, but can they make it work?
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