The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Would the Steelers be able to have a high-functioning offense even if one of their starting wide receivers suffered a multi-game injury?
Inspired by the news over the weekend that the Steelers are expecting to be without JuJu Smith-Schuster during OTAs for a little while for an undisclosed reason, I got to thinking about how the offense would function if either he or Antonio Brown were to miss an extended period of time this season.
Both of them missed two games last year, but the team still had Martavis Bryant to pick up the slack in those instances, and for the most part he actually did exactly that, especially in the games Brown missed at the end of the year.
What about this year with Bryant gone, however? Obviously we don’t really know for sure, so we’re talking about making predictions right now. And the answer could vary depending on how strongly one feels about Smith-Schuster’s ability to lead the team if Brown were the one injured.
Most likely, rookie James Washington would take the place of whoever was not on the field, since he is already expected to be the number three receiver this year, perhaps as early as the season opener. So this question is asking in part how well Washington could play as a spot starter during his rookie year.
And beyond that, we really don’t even know who else is going to be on the roster at that time. One of the top candidates, Eli Rogers, is not even on the roster right now. Could, say, a trio of Smith-Schuster, Washington, and Rogers keep the passing offense going at a high level for a string of games?
The team did play well when Brown was out last season, even including the remainder of the game in which he was injured. Both Smith-Schuster and Bryant stepped up, with Rogers making some contributions as well, including an 18-yard touchdown against the Patriots.