I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will produce a pair of 1000-yard receivers in 2018.
Considering the fact that they nearly accomplished that feat last year including one of those wide receivers just coming into the league and missing two games, not to mention the fact that he wasn’t even targeted in his first game, one might say it’s very likely to happen this year.
Barring some kind of freak injury, we are almost obligated at this point to take for granted that Antonio Brown is going to produce 1000-yard seasons on an annual basis. It’s been a while since he’s even come close to doing that. His 1284 yards in 15 games in 2016 was a down year!
So it’s really up to JuJu Smith-Schuster, I think, to hold up his end of the bargain, and honestly, if you prorate his numbers over a 16-game season, since he only played in 14, he had the necessary average. He would have had 1048 yards or something like that. And he is only going to be a bigger target this year. It would almost be a surprise if it doesn’t happen.
The Steelers have had prolific pairs of wide receivers consistently over the course of the past decade or so, yet the last time they were able to produce two with 1000 yards in the same season was in 2011 when Brown and Mike Wallace did it. Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward also did it not long before that.
Yet even with the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Martavis Bryant, the team had not been able to find another 1000-yard pair for Brown. In fact, I don’t believe any player on the team has had a 1000-yard season other than Brown since 2011.
Maybe Brown just catches too many passes—or more accurately, commands too many of the overall targets—for anybody else to really have a good shot at it. And if Vance McDonald is going to be a bigger part of the passing game, that is going to make it even more difficult for any other one player to get a big enough cut of the distribution to gain 1000 yards through the air.