Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. Earns ‘Unbelievable’ Praise From Frank Reich

Michael Pittman Jr.

Getty Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich shared how Michael Pittman Jr. has grown as the wide receiver enters his third season.

This offseason, the Indianapolis Colts have been criticized for their lack of outside offensive weapons. The Colts don’t have a single wide receiver older than 25 and are counting on several unproven and injury-prone wideouts to be significant targets for Matt Ryan this fall.

But the team appears to have one guarantee at receiver — Michael Pittman Jr. is going to shine.

A second-round pick in 2020, Pittman was a consistent producer, posting 40 catches and 503 receiving yards as a rookie. Then last year, he more than doubled his statistical output.

The sky appears to be the limit for Pittman this season, as he continues to get better. Colts head coach Frank Reich spoke with the media about the 24-year-old’s growth entering his third season.

“Man, it’s unbelievable. This guy is, I mean, he’s just a player,” Reich said on September 1. “He’s becoming more refined in his route running. Every year he’s gotten better as a route runner.

“He’s the ultimate competitor, the ultimate tough guy. The two things I think I’ve seen early so far are continued improvement in route running and leadership stepping up in a significant way.”

Despite Pittman set to only turn 25 on October 5, the Colts need him to be a leader in the wide receiver room this season. He’s the third-longest tenured wideout on Indianapolis’ roster, and the two receivers who have been on the team longer have only been with the Colts one additional season.

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Pittman Developing Into a Leader

In addition to speaking about his overall growth, Reich shared the ways in which Pittman has become more of a leader. He leads by example, but he’s also been more articulate about what needs to be done.

“I think he’s a natural leader,” Reich said. “Not that he’s been super vocal, but he’s been a little bit more vocal. I think he’s one of those guys that has to be intentional about that. I think it’s good. I think it’s good to challenge yourself like that.

“Every year as a player, saying you want to grow this year as a player. What does that look like? Well, for some guys that might be toning it down. For other guys that might be toning it up. I think what Pitt (Pittman) has done there has been appropriate. It’s not over the top, it’s not forced. It just seems natural. It seems like it’s within him and we can feel his leadership and his presence.”

The Colts will likely need everything Pittman can offer, especially early in the season. Indianapolis doesn’t have another wideout on its active roster who even has 400 receiving yards in their career. Pittman must be Ryan’s top outside target, particularly in the first few weeks, as the young Colts receivers continue to grow and get comfortable in regular season action.

Pittman broke out last year with 88 receptions, 1,082 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Pittman recorded 129 targets, which was 60 more than any other Colts pass catcher.

Indianapolis hopes to have more balance in its passing game this year, but Pittman figures to be the focal point regardless of how quickly the team’s other receivers develop.

Colts Recent History of Drafting WR in Second Round

To place less pressure on Pittman, the Colts are counting on two other receivers they drafted in the second round.

Parris Campbell, who is the longest-tenured Indianapolis wideout, is entering his fourth season. Because of various injuries throughout his career, Campbell has never played more than 7 games in a season. If healthy this year, Campbell could be the No. 2 receiver for Ryan.

Rookie Alec Pierce also has a chance to grow into that role. He’s expected to play out of the slot for Indianapolis this season. Pierce registered 52 catches for 884 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns during his senior year at Cincinnati in 2021.

The Colts drafted Campbell in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Pierce was the team’s first selection in 2022.

Indianapolis also has Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan and Dezmon Patmon on the 53-man roster. Strachan and Patmon each have 2 catches in their NFL careers. Dulin, who has 243 career receiving yards, is expected to play more on special teams.

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