Deon Cain is the newest addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers receiving corps. He has good size and speed at 6’2” 202 lbs, and runs a 4.43 40. That’s everything you want when selecting a receiver. Cain played three years at Clemson where he amassed 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in, winning a national championship his junior year before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Cain was drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL injury in his first preseason game and did not play at all that season. This year, Cain started three games for the Colts, but his production has been thin. 52 yards on 4 receptions after 7 games played is not impressive, and ultimately must be one reason why the Colts placed him on the practice squad. The Steelers obviously liked what they saw when they scouted him in college. Enough that they poached him off of the Colts’ practice squad and added him to their active roster.
Although Deon does not return kicks, his metrics show potential to be an NFL receiver. Let’s take a look at his highlights to see if we can find any trends to his receiving game. WATCH:
0:10 Lined up in the X and is running a fly pattern. A little bit of a push off to get separation. Turned his body and snatched at the ball by 3 pointing it with both palms and his chest. Elbows are out a bit, but he secures the catch and easily finishes the play into the end zone for a TD.
0:20 Lined up as the wing back and ran a hitch in. Both hands are up and ready on the break, great hands catch in front of his face, palms facing the balls thumbs touching. Spins off of a would be tackler and accelerates across the defenders for the touchdown.
0:33 Lines up in the Z (4 WR set) and runs a fly. Turns to face the ball, both palms on the football, thumbs in. Great hands catch while high pointing the football. Uses his strength and size to pull the defender and extend to the end zone for a touchdown.
0:40 Only WR in the X off of a play action, running a fly: Another 3 point catch with his chest and hands over his shoulder, and has plenty of space to finish the run for the touchdown. Elbows were way out on this catch.
0:50 4 WR’s in the X running a fly: Turns to face the ball and catch it with his hands while running backwards. Good hand placement with both palms sticking to the ball and he finishes his backpedal for 4 yards and a score.
0:57 Lined up wide left and looks like he ran another fly: This is his best basket catch so far, mechanically. Both palms on the football, and the elbows are tight to his body. Easy touchdown here.
1:07 I can’t see where he lined up, but it looked like a slant that was well covered. He had a step, and the QB anticipated the break and threw it a little high. Deon does a great job of elevating while facing the QB to get both palms on the ball. This is a nice athletic play. He comes down, makes a defender miss and picks up another 25 yards before being tackled.
1:14 I’m going to assume he was again in the X running a fly: He had to adjust to the football and lunged with his pinkies together to get both palms on the ball. A difficult catch made easier by good hand mechanics.
1:23 Another deep fly route: I’m going to say this because now it’s a trend. He is doing a great job of high pointing the ball deep down the field, by facing the QB, timing his jump, and getting both palms on the football with his thumbs together. Another excellent example here, and makes it difficult for any corner to defend his length.
1:27 Lined up in the X and runs a hitch: Has his hands in the ready position on his break, faces the QB, palms on the ball, spins away from the defender and accelerates for the touchdown.
1:33 In the X running a fly: Uses a quick out-step to blow by his press coverage. Nice basket catch over the shoulder and caught it with his hands, both palms on the ball. Finishes the play for the touchdown. Slows up a bit before crossing the goal line, I’d like to see him finish this play a little stronger.
1:41 Shows him spin off of a tackle to extend the play for a touchdown.
1:46 Looks like the X again running a fly: High-points the football beautifully, faces the QB, both palms on the football. Masterful catch.
1:50 Looks like he’s running a goal line fade from the X, but the QB severely underthrows the football. He adjusts nicely coming back to the football to high-point it, face the QB, with both palms on the ball, thumbs in. Since the play was very close to the goal line, he had good awareness to reach the ball back as he was coming out of the end zone to make sure he broke the plane. Good football IQ there, and I love how he came back to attack the football.
2:01 In the X running a fly/flag route: Jumps at the back of the end zone to high-point and face the football. Both hands on it and gets both feet down in bounds. This would be a TD in the NFL as well.
2:07 In the X running a fly: He is well defended and does create space by pushing off but does it low instead of high. Doesn’t break stride and catches the ball over his shoulder for a touchdown. Elbows were in here as well.
Deon Cain appears to do one thing really well — run the fly pattern for deep passes. This is usually the role of the Z receiver or 4th WR, so the Steelers may be asking him to compete with James Washington and Johnny Holton for deep balls. I do really like the way he high points deep footballs, and his hand mechanics look very good. I’m not sure how he translates to short/intermediate routes since there wasn’t a lot of tape here to show it.
Deon may be a one-trick pony, but if he does that trick well, you use it. He does have ideal size and speed for the prototypical NFL receiver. It will be up to the Steelers to see if they can maximize that potential to find another diamond in the rough.
Will Deon Cain be a productive receiver for the Steelers? Leave your comments below.