Ex-Bills Wide Receiver Sees Steelers, Colts as a Fit in Free Agency

John Brown Minkah Fitzpatrick

Justin Berl/Getty Images John Brown of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 15, 2019.

On Wednesday, the Buffalo Bills released wide receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, both apparent salary cap casualties.

It wasn’t long before Brown took to the airwaves to opine about which other NFL teams might be a good match for his skill set.

“I feel like I would fit in anywhere,” he said, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were the first of two teams that came to mind.

“It depends on who needs a receiver,” Brown noted, appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “Morning Drive” on Thursday morning. “Definitely the Pittsburgh Steelers. Big Ben is definitely good with the deep ball,” he advised. (Never mind the fact that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t look good throwing the deep ball—or any ball—when the two teams met in mid-December, a 26-15 win for the Bills. )

Brown also went on to mention the Indianapolis Colts and “the way they use T.Y. Hilton.”

“When we played those guys in the playoffs last year, and I walked off, I said, ‘This team is up and coming and they are going to be a problem in the next few years.’”

Do the Steelers Have a Need at Wide Receiver?

It remains to be seen whether the Steelers will have a significant need at wide receiver. If JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves via free agency, as expected, then the answer is yes.

Even so, the Steelers may prefer to address that need in, say, the second or third round of the draft, where they have consistently had success drafting wide receivers. Consider Smith-Schuster (second round, 2017), James Washington (second round, 2018), Diontae Johnson (third round, 2019), Chase Claypool (second round, 2020), as the most recent examples.

Meanwhile, the Steelers haven’t had success filling holes at wide receiver via free agency, with the Donte Moncrief signing the most disastrous example.

Nevertheless, there are a significant number of proven NFL receivers available this year in free agency, including Emmanuel Sanders, who was released on Wednesday by the New Orleans Saints. With so many options available, teams may be able to lock up veteran receivers at bargain prices.

John Brown’s NFL Journey

Brown entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2014 NFL Draft (No. 91 overall) out of Division II Pittsburg State. He spent four years with the Cardinals before inking a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens in March 2018. Then in March 2019 the Bills signed him to a three-year contract.

In his first year in Buffalo he caught 72 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns, but in 2020 he was slowed by an ankle injury and also spent time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. In nine regular season games he caught just 33 passes for 458 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a total of 10 catches for 86 yards in the postseason.

Over the course of his seven years in the league he has 320 receptions for 4,748 yards (14.8 yards per reception), with 31 touchdown catches.

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