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The Colts want 'reliable' players around Anthony Richardson. Michael Pittman Jr. is already that, and could be more in 2024 and beyond

The Colts will look to Michael Pittman Jr. as not only a focal point in their offense, but as a key presence in the development of quarterback Anthony Richardson. 

Michael Pittman Jr. established himself as an eminently reliable wide receiver over the course of his rookie contract, catching at least 85 passes for over 950 yards with 50-plus first downs every year from 2021-2023, all while missing only two games due to injury over the last three years. 

So when general manager Chris Ballard said at the NFL Combine a few weeks ago he wanted to surround second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson with "good, reliable players," you didn't have to squint to see how Pittman would fit that description. A week after Ballard said that, the Colts placed the franchise tag on Pittman; about week after getting the tag, the Colts and Pittman agreed on a contract extension that'll keep the 2020 second-round pick in Indianapolis beyond this upcoming season.

And that means Pittman and Richardson can continue to build on the chemistry they started to develop in 2023.

"It's huge – when you have a reliable player like Pitt that is going to show up every Sunday and make plays like he does, it definitely helps a young quarterback," Steichen said. "To keep getting that chemistry with those two guys, building, will be huge for Anthony's growth."

Pittman is more than just a reliable player on the field for the Colts, though. His physicality sets a tone for not just the Colts' offense, but the entire team – just watch a training camp practice to get an idea – and he's grown into a leadership role his teammates and coaches greatly value.

"He was obviously a huge leader in the wide receiver room and not only in the wide receiver room, but in the locker room," Steichen said. "I think his leadership abilities showed on the field by the way he played, how tough he is, the competitor like I said – I can't say enough about the competitor that he is. I think when guys are ultimate competitors, you can lead by example and that's what he did every single Sunday. He's reliable and he's always going to be there."

But Pittman, in his end-of-the-season press conference, said he believes there's more to his game than reliability. Specifically: "There's an aspect of my game I feel like I can show people (on) down the field throws."

Pittman flashed as an explosive, downfield threat in 2021, when he averaged 12.3 yards per reception – over two yards higher than his average of 10.0 yards per reception in 2022-2023. Don't forget about these kind of plays he made that season:

Or these in 2023 and his rookie year, showing his speed and vision as a yards after the catch threat:

Pittman's teammates see it, too: Whatever explosive plays he's lacked in his career have been due in part to circumstance. 

"Every single year, he's had a different quarterback under center and he's been able to consistently prove, hey, I can be a playmaker for this team, I can be a playmaker in this league," running back Jonathan Taylor said. "... The toughness he shows, the type of teammate he is, I don't know why you wouldn't want him in your building."

Pittman believes the consistency at quarterback Taylor mentioned should only help him continue to grow his impact as a receiver – whether it's on deep balls or quick throws. 

"I just think it only goes up being that AR is coming back," Pittman said. "For the first time we have a guy that is going to be here. I'm excited to work with him."

"I can't even imagine what's going to go down. In my head I'm thinking scramble drill for 70 yards, or I'm running down the sideline and he puts a perfect hole shot. What i'm most looking forward to is him being able to stretch the ball with his arm talent. I think it's going to make the difference for us."

"With Anthony, I think it's going to be great. And I think our RPO game is going to be one of the most ferocious, because you got Anthony, you got JT and all of us guys in the pass game."

But whether he's churning out yards on RPOs, bodying up defensive backs 40 yards down the field or blocking a linebacker to spring an explosive run, Pittman has proven to be the exact kind of player the Colts want to build around – and, with his extension, will continue to build around for years to come.

"We love everything about Pitt," Steichen said. "You know what you're going to get every week - an ultimate competitor, a playmaker and a leader in the locker room. He gives this team the same passion and energy on the practice field and in the meeting rooms on a consistent basis. I'm excited Pitt will continue to play a significant role in our offense and I'm very happy for him and his family."

Added Ballard: "Pitt is a fierce competitor, and he cares deeply about winning. He wants to be a difference maker and he's going to give you everything he's got on Sundays to accomplish that. We want the work ethic and attitude Pitt brings in all of our players. He absolutely deserves this deal and I'm thrilled he's going to remain a Colt."

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