As a group, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver corps disappointed in their inaugural showing for the 2019 season, with pretty much everyone coming up short in some capacity. Donte Moncrief had a ton of dropped balls. Ryan Switzer couldn’t break the tackle of a guinea pig. Diontae Johnson couldn’t pull off a rub route. Even JuJu Smith-Schuster had limited opportunities to contribute because he couldn’t escape his coverage, which was tight all night.
Despite the overall performance of the group as a whole, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not let down by what he saw from them. In fact, there were a number of positives that he took away from their showing, seeing the little details that make up the underappreciated aspects of the game.
Speaking to reporters yesterday during his media availability session, he said that “one of the biggest things that I saw was just the willingness”, via a video of the group interview that was provided courtesy of the team’s website.
The willingness “to block, the willingness to get back [to the huddle]. We send guys deep a lot, and they are running back to the line of scrimmage, ready to go”, Roethlisberger went on. “They didn’t shy away from that, and I’m just really proud of that and the plays that they did make, because the defenders were all over them, a lot. There were some tight windows and stuff. So I just was really proud of the way that we all communicated together on the sideline as well”.
Half of the group is returning from last season, but half of them are new faces as well, those being veterans Moncrief and Johnny Holton as well as rookie Johnson. Switzer has only been here for 11 months, however, and James Washington was a rookie in 2017. Even Smith-Schuster is only in year three, so communication is important for this group.
And while Smith-Schuster is of course the focal point, everybody understands what that means. He’s going to draw the attention, and others are going to have to be able to step in and make plays when those situations arise.
When Roethlisberger was asked about how the supporting cast can rise to the challenge, he said, “just keep doing what they’re doing. Make plays. Step up. Be in the right spots, and if I deliver the ball where it needs to be delivered, I think we can make more plays”.
Not that it always appeared to be that way on Sunday night. Obviously, the opening weekend was a letdown on an organizational level. But the Steelers, and their quarterback, believe they have much more to show for themselves than what they did in Week One, and they’re ready to show it this weekend.