2019 Offseason Questions: How Much Of Offensive Struggle Was Adjusting To Life After AB?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.

How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?

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: How much of the Steelers’ offensive struggles against the New England Patriots could be attributed to adjusting to life after Antonio Brown?

There’s no denying that quite a bit of the Steelers’ offense over the course of the past six seasons had been channeled directly through Antonio Brown. Even when he wasn’t getting the targets—and he consistently got more targets, usually among the most in the NFL—his presence on the field dictated how the defense would play the other 10 offensive players.

Sunday wasn’t the first game since he entered the starting lineup that the Steelers had to play without Brown, but it was close, as he’s only missed a small handful of games. And this was the first in which they structured an entire offense without him in the picture.

It did not look good. But how much of that was because of their inability to adjust to new roles and new looks without him on the field…and how much of it was just them being bad? I suppose the best way to answer this question is simply to continuing watching the games and see how they perform.

Nobody felt it more than JuJu Smith-Schuster, of course. He got a heavy dose of tight man coverage going up against Stephon Gilmore on Sunday night. He’s gone against and won facing some top cornerbacks before, but consistently drawing that number one assignment, getting that double coverage on a regular basis, that was new to him. Can he adjust and learn to beat it? Sure, it’s possible. Will he?

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