In case it has not yet become obvious, the Pittsburgh Steelers are using rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as a starter. On Sunday, he only came off the field for two snaps that came before the final drive of the game when starters were replaced that were not out of the 13 or 23 personnel packages. And for the record, it was Martavis Bryant, not Antonio Brown, on the field for the 13 snap.
But when it comes to Bryant, at least based on Thursday’s game against the Titans, it seems that they may have plans to use him rotationally at this point, as there was a clear, though not perfect, pattern of interchange between himself and Eli Rogers, the latter of whom was able to see a couple dozen snaps.
Bryant played roughly double the amount of snaps that Rogers had, but the two combined played very nearly the entire game, since they almost exclusively operated out of the 11 personnel, in part due to injuries, and in part due to the intention to use the no-huddle and hurry-up.
All told, the pair have only logged about 75 or so snaps on the field together at the same time, the vast, vast majority of which came in the first few games of the season, and none in the past several games. It’s slightly striking to see while sorting through our charting as to how their snaps avoid one another.
It was Rogers, rather than Bryant, who started the game with the offense, participating in all six of the snaps on their opening possession. Then it was Bryant’s turn, seeing all of the five snaps on their second possession.
From there, we saw some mixing and matching of the two over the course of the next two drives, both just three plays apiece. Bryant logged the first four of five plays on their next possession, but was replaced on third own—Bryant was just targeted on a go route on the previous play, to explain that change.
He then saw almost all of the remainder of the snaps in the first half with about three minutes to play, over two separate possessions. He logged 12 snaps before he was taken off and replaced by Rogers after a spike to stop the clock. This was after he recovered Brown’s fumble.
Rogers again opened the second half, as he did the first, but on an extended drive, they went back and forth toward the end. It was the opposite on the next drive, another long one that Bryant started, and on which Rogers was sprinkled in toward the end.
The elder receiver also replaced Rogers at the end of their 10th possession, on second and five from the 10, on which Brown caught his third touchdown. He then remained on the field for the duration of their final meaningful possession.
It’s unclear to me exactly what the plan it. It seems to me that there is a loose rotation favoring Bryant, yet Rogers has been the one asked to start either half. Greater clarity is still sought with respect to the roles of the wide receivers behind their two starters.