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: How good are the Steelers’ wide receivers in 2018 without Antonio Brown?
This is hopefully not a question that we will actually need the answer to, either this year or for several more yet to come—let’s say a decade-plus, to be on the safe side—but the question on my mind today is this: if you take Antonio Brown out of the lineup, how good are the Steelers’ receivers this season?
We don’t have an answer to this year, obviously. You can never have an answer when a rookie is involved. But I was thinking back to just last season. Brown missed the final two games of the regular season, and the second half of the game before that, due to an injury, and the offense actually moved pretty well without him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was a big part of helping to make that offense move without Brown doing and he can do for you, but so was Martavis Bryant, who saw his greatest success of the year during that time with the All-Pro sidelined by injury.
Of course, Bryant is gone. And so too is Eli Rogers, at least for the time being. The starting pair would presumably consist of Smith-Schuster and rookie James Washington, but the number three receiver is less certain at the moment. Justin Hunter and Marcus Tucker did both work with the first-team offense this spring while Smith-Schuster missed time (as did Brown).
The Steelers offense showed that they can still be surprisingly competitive without Brown last year, though it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge those two games came against the winless Cleveland Browns and a Houston Texans team that was down to its fourth quarterback at one point.
According to his peers, Brown is the second-best player in the entire NFL. Any argument made suggesting the team could be as good without him is inexcusable. But how competitive a team can they field if they didn’t have him, right now?