History of the decade: Receivers and tight ends

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A look at the Steelers' success and failures in the draft and free agency since 2004 ...

Draft

Heath Miller, a first-round pick in 2005, is the best tight end in Steelers history and remains among the top in the game today. Antonio Brown, the ultimate value pick -- chosen in the sixth round in 2010 -- is now a bona fide No. 1 receiver and a burgeoning star.

Though no longer with the team, several picks made huge contributions. Santonio Holmes -- whom the Steelers traded up for in the first round in 2006 -- literally captured a league-record sixth Super Bowl victory for the franchise, then was jettisoned a year later for bad behavior. Despite Mike Wallace's exit last year, he was an excellent third-round pick in 2009. Emmanuel Sanders showed flashes of being an above average third-round pick from the same draft, but not enough that the Steelers prevented him from leaving via free agency this offseason.

Drafted to be a replacement for Wallace and/or Sanders, 2013 third-round selection Markus Wheaton saw limited action last year and was hampered by a finger injury. Another 2013 pick, Justin Brown, spent the season on the practice squad.

Highly-touted second-round pick in 2008, Limas Sweed remains the poster boy for modern Steelers draft busts, but that's only because he made people forget about 2006 third-rounder Willie Reid. Fourth-round WR pick Fred Gibson didn't make it out of training camp in 2005. Valley High School's Toney Clemons, a 2012 seventh-rounder, spent most of that year on the practice squad and was signed away.

Matt Spaeth, a third-round pick in 2007, left for Chicago before being re-signed last year. A 2012 seventh-rounder, David Paulson saw increased action at tight end early in the season as Miller recovered from a major knee injury. The team's final pick of 2009, David Johnson, contributed at tight end before being moved to fullback. He signed with San Diego last month.

Free agents

Brought over from the Jets in 2011, Jerricho Cotchery provided veteran leadership and developed a good field rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but left this offseason for Carolina. His departure made signing a veteran wide receiver an immediate priority, so the Steelers brought in Lance Moore from New Orleans and earlier this week added Darrius Heyward-Bey from Indianapolis.

Plaxico Burress arrived late in 2012, was put on injured reserve in training camp and is no longer on the roster. Cedrick Wilson contributed as a No. 3 receiver in the 2005 Super Bowl season. Others such as Arnaz Battle and Sean Morey made their marks on special teams.

Tight end Leonard Pope followed offensive coordinator Todd Haley from Arizona, and while he caught two touchdowns in 2012, he only had one other reception, totaled 9 yards from scrimmage and was released after the season.

An undrafted free agent in 2005, Nate Washington, from tiny Tiffin University in Ohio, was a pleasant surprise and the team's No. 3 receiver from 2006-08. Rochester High School and Penn State alum Derek Moye, a 2012 undrafted free agent, caught a touchdown last year but has spent most of his time on the practice squad.


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