The Pittsburgh Steelers have recently been nicknamed, “The WR factory” for being able to seamlessly develop star wide receivers each season. In the past three seasons, receivers like, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant have burst onto the scene with breakout years. The Steelers have a long history of great wide receivers, but they also have also had some busts. In the Roethlisberger era (2004- now), the Steelers have gone through their fair share of wide receivers. It is hard to criticize a team who has had so much success since Roethlisberger’s first season - two Super Bowls, three Super Bowl appearances, and four AFC Championship appearances in 12 seasons. The team has been consistently making the playoffs since his arrival. However, every good team has its share of bad players, and the Steelers are no exception, especially among their receiving options. In the 12 seasons since Big Ben joined the team, the Steelers have gone through many different receivers, some great and some not so great.
This list counts down the worst wide receivers to play for the Steelers since Big Ben joined the team in 2004. These are the worst receivers Roethlisberger has had to play with since becoming a Steeler.
Here are, the top 15 worst receivers Ben Roethlisberger has had to play with. Being that :
15 15. Matt Spaeth
Spaeth has spent his entire NFL career trying to best Heath Miller for the number 1 starting job at tight end. He has played for the Steelers for seven seasons, and each of those seasons, he has maintained the role of back up TE, nothing more. Spaeth spent four seasons with the Steelers, then, frustrated, he departed for Chicago and played two seasons with the Bears. Then Spaeth returned in 2013 and has been with Pittsburgh ever since. Except for the 2013 season, which he missed most of due to injury, Spaeth has never started less than five games as a Steeler in a single season, or play less than 12 games.
He has yet to accumulate more than 17 receptions or 136 yards receiving in a single season. He continues to strive to one day become the starting TE for Pittsburgh, but it doesn’t seem like that day will ever come.
13 14. David Johnson
Johnson played four seasons with Pittsburgh, and with Big Ben at quarterback. During those seasons, Johnson continually found himself underperforming, and under scrutiny by the organization and the media. Johnson played for the Steelers from 2009 - 2013, before departing to San Diego to play with the Chargers, where he has spent the past two seasons. In his time with Pittsburgh, Johnson only recorded more than 4 receptions once, and failed to record more than 100 yards receiving in any of his 4 seasons with the team.
In 2011, Johnson played and started every game for the Steelers, because Heath Miller was injured. It was Johnson’s opportunity to step into the limelight. However, in that season, he performed poorly. In 16 games, he had 12 receptions for 91 yards and 1 touchdown. Needless to say, Heath Miller's presence was missed by Big Ben.
Stephens-Howling played only one season in Pittsburgh, coming over from Arizona in 2013. In his last two seasons in Arizona, Howling received acclaim for his running play and especially his receiving ability. When he moved from the desert to the steel city, expectations were high for Stephens-Howling. The Steelers organization and fans saw him as a “Darren Sproles” type of player; a back up running back who could compete for the number 1 spot on the roster and be a big threat in the passing game. However, Stepehens-Howling’s time in Pittsburgh was littered with injury and his performance suffered because of it. He played one game, and caught two passes for 11 yards. In his previous two seasons in Arizona, Howling had showed promise, but ultimately, his time in Pittsburgh was disappointing.
Following his disastrous season in Pittsburgh, Stephens-Howling decided to call it quits in his mid-20s.
12 12. Willie Reid
Willie Reid played two seasons in Pittsburgh, but only one with Big Ben at quarterback. During that year Reid saw his many high expectations fall flat to the ground, as he became a back up receiver on the Steelers depth chart. In his one year with Big Ben, Reid only managed to play six games in the season due to injury and other issues that took place off the field. In those six games, he caught 4 passes for 54 yards and no touchdowns, a stat line that many wouldn't be too proud of. On top of the bad stats, one of those caught passes turned into a lost fumble for the Steelers.
11 11. Antwaan Randle El
In his first two seasons with Ben Roethlisberger, Antwaan Randle El put up decent numbers, and fit perfectly into the spot of a back up wide receiver, as he was both athletic and professional. However, after two seasons, Randle El left to Washington for four seasons, only to return to Pittsburgh and play one final season. In his last season with the Steelers, Randle El was dismal at best. Blame old age or lack of commitment, but Randle El was a burden on the Steelers financially, as his performance on the field didn't match his pay.
10 10. Emmanuel Sanders
9 9. Nate Washington
Nate Washington played four seasons in Pittsburgh alongside Ben Roethlisberger, from 2005-2008. During those seasons, Washington underperformed and his dedication was often called into question as he never appeared to be fully committed to being a football player. Washington played all 32 games in his last 2 years when and Roethlisberger shared the field, and he was never plagued with injury. However, Washington failed to produce quality numbers with the Steelers, or more specifically, with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
8 8. Jacoby Jones
The sample size is small, but it is nonetheless noteworthy. Jacoby Jones was spiraling downwards when he moved from San Diego to Pittsburgh last season, though expectations of the former Baltimore Ravens star were high. When he joined the Steelers, Jones was supposed to fill the role of veteran receiver and perhaps instill some wise words and experience into the minds of the young Steelers receiving core. However, this was not the case. Jones only played four games for the Steelers last season, due to injury and poor performance. Jones, did not manage to even record a single stat, while playing for the team. Not one catch, yard gained, touchdown scored, nothing.
7 7. Lance Moore
Moore played one season with the black & gold in 2014, coming from New Orleans, which is where he had spent his entire career playing, winning a Super Bowl with Drew Brees as his quarterback. He came to Pittsburgh with expectations of making a major impact on the team and becoming a "Wes Welker" type receiver for Big Ben to throw to, as the two receivers were similar in size and skill. Being a smaller receiver gave Moore the opportunity to become a dangerous weapon for the Steelers offense, something they were lacking at the time.
6 6. Plaxico Burress
Plaxico Burress is now well known as the NFL player who shot himself in the leg with a gun, but before that, he was just known as a good receiver. Burress started out his career in Pittsburgh, playing five seasons before departing to New York to play with the Giants. In those five seasons, he played one along side Big Ben. In that season Burress' play was not up to par, in comparison to his previous seasons. He managed only 35 catches (almost half as much as season previous) and less than 700-plux yards receiving.
5 5. Darrius Heyward-Bey
Heyward-Bey found success in Oakland with the Raiders despite being considered by many as a first round draft pick bust as he played there for four seasons and had one 900+ yard season. However, that success could not be duplicated when Bey joined the Steelers in 2014. In his 2 seasons with the Steelers, Bey has managed to rack up 24 receptions and less than 400 yards total, low numbers for many wide receivers that have such great natural talent. Those are dismal number for someone who was once a number 1 starting receiver in the NFL.
4 4. Cedrick Wilson
Wilson played three seasons as a member of the wide receiver corps with the Steelers. He joined the team in 2005, and stayed for three seasons with Roethlisberger as a quarterback. He played with Roethlisberger for the almost the entirety of those three seasons, missing only one game. In his last season with the Steelers, Wilson put up poor numbers in comparison to his previous two seasons with the team, a disappointment to the organization and the fans. In each of his first two years with the team Wilson had more that 25 receptions and 450 yards receiving. In his one season with Roethlisberger, Wilson caught 18 passes and only managed to rack up 207 yards receiving.
3 3. Justin Brown
2 2. Jerricho Cotchery
Cotchery has made a name for himself the past two seasons, with his great play in Carolina playing with quarterback Cam Newton. Before that, most people remember him playing with Jets, but not the Steelers, and there is a reason for that. Cotchery played three seasons in Pittsburgh 2011-2013, and with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In his first two seasons, Cotchery did not play well at all, and his stats show it. In each of his 2 seasons, he had less than 20 receptions, and did not rack up more than 237 yards receiving. After a couple 800-plus yard seasons, one 900-plus yard season and one 1,000 yard season with the Jets, the Steelers were expecting a lot more from the receiver.
1 1. Limas Sweed
In college Limas Sweed won two Rose Bowl Championships, as well as a BCS National Title. It's fair to say he had a great college football career, as he was one of the premiere receivers at the collegiate level. As expected, when it came time for Sweed to make the leap to the NFL, he was a highly touted prospect, and many teams wanted him. He was drafted in the 2nd round to the Steelers, and fans, as well as the organization, expected him to become a top 3 receiver on the Steelers roster, especially with Big Ben throwing the ball to him. However, Sweed's career in the NFL never quite panned out as he had and others had hoped.
Sweed did not end up playing more than two seasons with the Steelers, and only managed 7 receptions in 20 games with the black and gold. Sweed was a college success but an NFL failure.
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