In case you haven’t heard the news by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders this past March. Him being jettisoned now means the offense will look to somewhat replace the 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns he registered last season. While replacing Brown’s 104 catches and nearly 1,300 receiving yards can probably be done by spreading the football around a little bit more to other players, along with getting natural contributions from the new players that will now play the X wide receiver position moving forward, such as veteran Donte Moncrief and rookie Diontae Johnson, replacing all of those touchdowns could be the bigger task.
This past week during the Steelers mandatory minicamp, second-year offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was asked about the team’s offseason loss of Brown and specifically about if he thinks it will be hard to replace the 15 touchdowns that the wide receiver scored last season.
“Well, you know, I mean, again, you’d like to think that everything kind of comes with the system, you know, and what you don’t have to replace is the guy throwing the ball that contributes,” Fichtner said. “You know, there’s always going to take a group effort in any time you score a touchdown. I know this, if you don’t have the group effort, you’re not scoring many touchdowns and, you know, collectively, we’re just going to have to chew on all that. And it’s going to come, opportunity’s going to be there for somebody. Like I said, you know, everyone got a start and everyone got an opportunity to, you know, put their hand in the pile and see who can do it.”
Later in his session with the media, Fichtner once again semi-addressed the 15 touchdowns that Brown had last season in regard to them trying to be replaced by the Steelers offense in 2019.
“I think, you know, one of the things that happens is, you know, you have such continuity, you know, A.B. and Ben had been together a long time,” Fichtner said. “A lot of potential touchdowns were broken plays, extended plays, made really by both men. But again, Ben’s still gonna have the opportunity to have those broken plays. Now, what are going to be the reactions of the other guys to maybe be in the same spots and catch the ball, you know. So, we know that’s going to happen somehow, some way. It happens every year.”
One of the most interesting facts about the 15 receiving touchdowns that Brown scored last season is that 10 of them were on completions that gained 20 yards or more. 8 of those 10 even included the football traveling 20 or more yards in the air past the original line of scrimmage. As for Fichtner’s comments about broken play touchdowns between Brown and Roethlisberger, there were seemingly four of those last season in which the quarterback delivered the football to the wide receiver for a score after 5 seconds had expired since the football was snapped. I have included those four plays below.
Overall, Fichtner gave Brown his due this past week, just as he should have. Additionally, he made it a point to emphasize that while Brown is indeed no longer in Pittsburgh, that Roethlisberger is, and by that he means that’s a huge part of the equation. Even so, and while Roethlisberger will do his part in attempting to potentially redistribute those lost Brown receiving touchdowns elsewhere throughout the offense in 2019, even he is fully aware of the quality of player the team lost this offseason.
“Well, you know, I’ve been blessed to play with some really great football players and Antonio was one of them,” Roethlisberger said this past week during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “And he made me a better quarterback and the things that we did together were pretty spectacular. No one can deny that. So, he made my job easier at times and so there some big shoes that need to be filled.
“But the fun part that I’ve seen so far is that guys aren’t trying to fill those shoes, they’re just going out trying to play ball and trying to be the best that they can be. So, you know, it definitely brings a new kind of life to this team that everyone’s going to have to be involved, it’s not like we can just sit back and rely on one guy to do it for us. We all need to do our parts to try and win.”
Roethlisberger, however, did essentially say during his interview on Sirius that Brown no longer being on the team reduces the pressure on himself to force the football to one specific player moving forward.
“Well, I think there’s a fine line a lot of quarterbacks walk, especially when they’ve got talented guys,” Roethlisberger said. “Sure, there’s a lot of quarterbacks out there that feel the need to spread the ball around, that need to get someone a catch and, you know, need to get them kind of into the game, if you will. And when you’ve got a lot of young guys, I mean obviously we’ve got JuJu [Smith-Schuster], who’s kind of a proven guy to a certain degree, obviously he’s done some great things in his first couple of years, but you don’t get any of that from him. Like, you know, he’s got to have the ball.
“[Donte] Moncrief’s been in the league a little bit, but he’s new to our team. So, having a bunch of guys that I think just want to be out there and just help contribute and win, makes it a little bit easier, takes a little pressure off me. Not necessarily needing to get so-and-so the ball at this point, or throw this guy the ball here, or run the ball here, or throw the ball here.”