The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: What would an offense without Antonio Brown look like in 2019?
Antonio Brown has been a staple of the Steelers’ offense since about the middle of the 2011 season when he began to receive starter reps en route to the first 1000-yard season of his career. He emerged as a full-time starter a year later and, beginning in 2013, has been on a record pace, averaging well over 100 receptions, 1000 yards, and 10 touchdowns in that span.
And every day brings us a new bit of drama, substantiated or otherwise, that indicates he and the team are heading closer and closer to a parting of company. The latest bit sees Brown remove the Steelers from his bios on social media, a similar approach to Le’Veon Bell—the difference being that he is actually under contract…for three more years.
While this might seem like nothing to many people, and Mike Tomlin would certainly blow it off as nonsense, it’s obviously something that he did knowingly. Whether he’s just trying to stir things up, voice his displeasure, or genuinely wants to be on another team, we still don’t know.
And why he did that and what he feels still may not even matter, because the Steelers can still trade him regardless of what he wants. But the question they have to answer is whether or not what they can get back in a trade is enough to offset what they lose on the field.
The Steelers had one of the top offenses in 2018, and Brown was an integral part of that even when he wasn’t getting the ball. The offense only put up 16 points at home against a ravaged Bengals defense in the finale that has people worried.
But players admitted that they were distracted by the whole Brown situation that day, similar to the anthem controversy in Chicago. The offense was successful without Brown at the end of the 2017 regular season when he missed time due to injury.
Plain and simply, the Steelers would need Smith-Schuster, at age 22, to take yet another big step forward and become THE guy, meaning the guy opposing teams gameplan for. The offense may try to be more balanced on the ground as well. Will they be able to be successful, however? Brown has been a very consistent scorer over the past six years—the only one.