Could Steelers Have Internal Answer for New Deep Threat

Former 2nd round pick Justin Hunter believes it’s his time

Jeff Hathhorn
July 31, 2018 - 7:23 pm

93.7 the Fan

LATROBE (93.7 the Fan) - There are only a couple of Help Wanted signs with the Steelers this year, deep threat receiver is one of them.  That position came open after the team traded oft-troubled wide out Martavis Bryant to the Raiders.

Justin Hunter believes he’s just in time for that first opportunity to make a splash.

“Yeah, I definitely think I can be that guy,” Hunter said.  “My whole life I was one of those guys in that category, so I just need to keep working at it and get on the same page with Ben and hopefully things start clickin’.”

Hunter believes the speed is still there despite an ACL injury in college and ankle injury in the NFL.  Hunter ran a 4.44-40 at the Indy combine with a 40.5” vertical leap. 

The Titans saw those numbers and made the junior from Tennessee their second round pick (34th overall) in 2013.  Hunter struggled with the Titans at times catching under 43% of the passes his way, however he averaged over 18 yards a reception in his first two seasons.

The 6’4” Hunter was with the Bills and Dolphins in 2016.  Four of the 10 receptions with Buffalo were touchdowns.  He had very limited opportunities with the Steelers last year, seven games with four catches for 23 yards and a score. 

“It’s a big stage when you come to the Steelers, everything has to be on point,” Hunter said of last season.  “I feel that they wanted me to be on point before I get in there because Ben being there 14 years.  I didn’t want to get in there and mess anything up, so I wanted to be on point with him.”

Hunter believes he’s had a good offseason and shown some progress, however Monday during a camp practice Ben Roethlisberger chewed him out for looking back and not finishing a deep route.

So after such a limited opportunity, and still not on the same page at times with the quarterback, why would Hunter want to come back to the Steelers?

“I knew the system,” Hunter said after signing a one year contract.  “It felt good last year, it felt like home.  All the players are really cool and family oriented, coach Tomlin preaches about that.  I felt really at home when I was here and said I wanted to come back.”

It could be that Hunter just hasn’t peaked yet, or that Jake Locker, Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst and Tyrod Taylor were the quarterbacks throwing him passes until he came to Pittsburgh or his admission that he should have stayed in school after playing only two years.

“I wouldn’t lie to you, in the back of my mind sometimes I think I should have stayed another year,” Hunter said, admitting his college coaches suggested his draft grade was good enough to go.  “To get another year of playing under my belt because I got hurt my sophomore year, but the situations that were going on I made the best decision for me and my family.”

Hunter believes his hopps can make a difference in the red zone and that he still has time this camp to iron out details and make this his best pro season.

“If I just make it happen on Sundays and show people what I do in practice, things should open up,” Hunter said.  “You have to stay on it.  You got to stay on everything I do.  I can’t lose sight of what I’m looking forward to.”