Can the Steelers wide receivers be more productive without Mike Wallace one of the top deep threats in the NFL?

The players entrusted with taking over the position -- Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders -- think so. And so too does offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Last year the receiving corps underachieved as much as if not more than any unit on the team perhaps because so much was expected of them. Dropped passes inexplicable fumbles and muffed chances in the end zone stood out more and had a bigger impact than the plays they happened to make.

And Brown for one is determined to change that.

"I think we can be an awfully lot better" said Brown who has been elevated to the No. 1 receiver with the departure of Wallace. "That's the mentality of our group -- we're hungry and motivated."

Wallace Brown and Sanders combined for 174 catches 2259 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012. So how can two of them be better this season without Wallace?

"First and foremost we got to protect the ball and make big plays" Brown said. "You get caught up trying to make that big play and you lose the ball. And the ball is the most important thing you got. That's what you got to learn to protect."

Haley though does not easily dismiss the loss of Wallace who averaged 17.2 yards per catch in four seasons with the Steelers and had more touchdowns of 40 yards or longer with Ben Roethlisberger (14) than any active duo in the NFL.

But as a unit Haley believes the wide receivers have a chance to be more productive because he thinks Sanders is better suited to playing on the outside than in the slot the position he mostly played last year.

With Sanders on the outside Jerricho Cotchery will be the slot receiver and Haley thinks he is better suited for that position than Sanders.

"I like the way we're lining up in three-receiver sets" Haley said. "We're playing to both guys strengths by lining A.B. and Emmanuel outside and Jerricho inside because that inside receiver is such a huge part of the run game. And Jerricho has been tremendous.

"Emmanuel did it last year but it doesn't fit his stature. I think he's a much better outside receiver. I'm excited about lining up with three receivers."

Said Sanders: "There's a lot more traffic in the slot. You got to be worried about linebackers and safeties. On the outside your primary worry is the cornerback. It's a different feel. The slot is more of a controlled position. In the slot you got to be more patient. You got to give the coverage time to form. On the outside it's more 1-on-1."

Sanders though stopped short of saying he will be more productive on the outside.