While the Pittsburgh Steelers are putting the spotlight on themselves this week, many in the national media are shining it elsewhere, on those who are not here. Every indication is that the Steelers would be fine with that, if only they could stop asking them about it.
Ramon Foster took the most direct route, though Ben Roethlisberger’s “whatever” response to being asked about the New England Patriots signing Antonio Brown was pretty nifty. “Please don’t ever ask me about him again”, he told reporters after being asked about him again. “I ask that respectfully”.
Others took a more diplomatic approach to handling questions about those who are no longer with the team, such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has taken a central role in filling in the void left behind in Brown’s absence. Smith-Schuster did catch six passes for 78 yards in a game in which the Steelers mustered up a whopping three points.
“People are always gonna talk about not having certain players that we had last year”, he told reporters. “I think this year, the guys that we have here, we have guys who play outside receiver, inside receiver. We’ve got so many guys. We’ve just got to make our plays. We didn’t make our plays today. It’s crucial, and it’s a game-changer”.
While the Steelers have these guys, versatile players who are able to line up anywhere on the field, they were not productive, or at least productive enough, in the season opener. They got very little out of their playmakers, and even what productivity they did achieve was largely gathered after the result of the game had already been well in-hand.
The storyline heading into the regular season for the Steelers on the national stage was whether or not a team could get better by losing superior talent that was nonetheless a corrosive element to the team unity and culture. The first chance to state a positive case was resoundingly negative, but there are 15 more opportunities going forward to do so.
In his debut with the New York Jets, running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 60 yards on 17 attempts, with a long run of 12 yards. He caught six passes for 32 more yards, including a touchdown, but the Jets lost, 17-16, to the Buffalo Bills.
As for Brown, of course, you know where he is. He signed with the Patriots, but he was not eligible to play in Sunday’s game. He’ll have 15 games to show that he was the one who made the offense go and not Roethlisberger. Though, playing with Tom Brady isn’t exactly a dropoff.