For a straight solid half a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers could virtually count on getting a Pro Bowl or Pro Bowl-worthy performances from the wide receiver and running back positions, respectively, from Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Each of them have set some type of NFL history during their stint with Pittsburgh, which came to an end for both of them earlier this month.
Through his first five seasons, for example, Bell is averaging more yards from scrimmage per game than any other player who has ever played in the NFL. In history. That’s pretty impressive. And as for Brown, well, among his most phenomenal achievements would be his record-setting six consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions.
One wonders how easily they will be able to further their history-making performances with the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. But one thing the Steelers don’t have to wonder about is where they are going to find their next Pro Bowl performers at their positions—because they already have them, as Head Coach Mike Tomlin helpfully reminded earlier this week during the annual league meeting.
In speaking about Bell and Brown, he told reporters that the fact that neither of them are on the team any long speaks to the reality that sometimes relationships simply run their course. “But I’ll also say we’ve got good players on our team”, he added.
“No disrespect to those guys or what they’ve been able to do over the course of their careers, particularly in Pittsburgh, but we had a Pro Bowl wideout on our team who’s still on our team from last year”, Tomlin continued. “We had a Pro Bowl running back last year who was on our team who’s still on our team. So we’ve got good players, we’ve got good quality players specifically at those positions”.
In case you’re somehow unaware, those two Pro Bowlers were a pair of second-year players in wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner. Smith-Schuster caught over 100 passes for north of 1400 receiving yards, while Conner in 13 games recorded nearly 1500 yards from scrimmage with 13 scores.
“Will we need additional plays from other people, certainly, but you have that discussion and make those statements year-in and year-out, and we do”, Tomlin said. For Bell, it’s not much of an issue because he was already absent in 2018. Jaylen Samuels, a rookie a year ago, figures to take on a bigger role in 2019.
As for the wide receiver position, they brought in Donte Moncrief via free agency and anticipate significant growth from James Washington in his second season as a former second-round pick. They have seen him do great things in practice and he started to percolate late in the season.