Devil’s Advocate: Sharing Scoring Load With Antonio Brown

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Do the Steelers have somebody else on the roster who can actually absorb a significant number of touchdowns?

I happened to be reviewing some of the Steelers statistical output from last season yesterday, and something jumped out at me: specifically, the team’s receiving touchdown statistics. There were 33 of them. Antonio Brown caught 12 of them. Nobody else even managed to catch four.

While 33 receiving touchdowns is a reasonable amount, it is something that can be improved upon. It’s not exactly uncommon in this era of the NFL for quarterbacks to throw 35 to 40 touchdowns. And it’s not like the Steelers are scoring 20 touchdowns on the ground.

But there seems to be too much put on Brown’s shoulders to get that sort of production. He already became the first player in team history to record 10 or more touchdowns in three separate seasons, let alone three consecutive. He was second in the league in receiving touchdowns in 2016.

But second place on the team was a tie between Jesse James and Eli Rogers, neither of whom should be expected to really top those numbers next year. But who can top their production from a year ago? Of course we can talk about Sammie Coates, who recorded two touchdowns in the same game in which he injured his hand and was never the same again that year.

The elephant in the room is and will continue to be until he isn’t, Martavis Bryant. He had eight touchdowns in 10 games as a rookie and six—in 11 in 2015, but he sat out last year due to a suspension. But we can’t assume that either player will pick up where they left off.

What about Ladarius Green? He’s the ultimate devil’s advocate discussion. He had four touchdowns in his first six games in 2015, but he’s never really managed to stay on the field. He was never even in the role last year the Steelers signed him to play. Even assuming that he is this year, can he actually live up to his potential?

But bottom line is, does this team have another player, or more likely a pair of players, that can put up 10-15 touchdowns between them to complement Brown, rather than hoping to disperse the production over twelve different players as they did last year?

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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