Through the first two games of the 2020 season, Ben Roethlisberger could have been accused of feeding his top two wide receivers, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, who by that point accounted for roughly a third of his total targets.
Johnson’s concussion that he suffered in the second quarter on Sunday naturally changed the complexion of the dynamic in the passing game after that, but by and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers are spreading the ball around this season, though it’s something Roethlisberger says he’s not actively focusing on.
“There are a lot of guys who have their hand in the pile and are making plays for us. It seems like it’s someone different every week”, he told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ve got some guys that we can depend on all the time. We’ve got some new guys that can make plays. The ball is getting spread around, and that’s what makes it fun. Everyone is involved and everyone is involved in winning a football game. And at the end of the day, that is our only priority”.
Through three games, the Steelers have five different players who have been targeted at least 10 times, with Chase Claypool having nine targets. Four players have accumulated over 100 receiving yards, with James Washington at 92. Five different players have scored a receiving touchdown, as well, while seven players have caught at least five passes, with 10 players in all catching at least one pass.
Still, you have Johnson leading the way with 25 targets, 23 of which came in the first two games, and Smith-Schuster with 19 (for 17 receptions and three touchdowns). Aside from Washington, who has 15 targets, third-most, he is going to the receivers he’s most familiar with.
“You have to be careful because if you get caught in that game, you’ll try to force someone a ball”, he said about the idea of trying to keep any one player ‘happy’. “I’ve done it in the past, and sometimes it leads to bad things. I don’t predetermine going into it, but I think the biggest thing that shows is that I trust each guy. Each guy can make a play for this team. And depending on the situation, that’s kind of how it unfolds”.
I think we can all guess the name of the elephant in the room, that being Antonio Brown, who caught 837 passes during his nine years with the Steelers for over 11,000 yards and 74 touchdowns. Even he himself admitted that Heath Miller of all people has had to tell him to shut up during games when he’s complaining about wanting the ball.
At least from the outside, it doesn’t appear that this team has any of those selfish egos, but as Roethlisberger also said, winning games helps that. They are 3-0, something the Steelers haven’t been since Brown’s rookie season in 2010, before he was a major contributor.