The Steelers know they can’t replace wide receiver Antonio Brown with any one player. So they’re not going to try.
Instead, they’re pushing versatility, and players are pushing each other — along with the Earth as they compete for roles in a new offense.
“Everybody’s pushing each other — you got a drop, you’ve got 10 push-ups,” new wide receiver Donte Moncrief said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “Everybody’s trying to bring energy . . . Make plays, don’t come out here lagging . . . I feel like everybody’s going to be able to help. Everyone’s ready to play. Everybody knows JuJu is going to get a lot of attention. We have to be able to help him out, take some double-teams away and beat man so the defense has to cover everybody.”
While expecting JuJu Smith-Schuster to take on much of the statistical load is expected, they have multiple options behind him, and have shown the ability to use them.
When he was without Brown for a couple of games in 2017, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed passes to nine different players, with four guys catching at least four each. That’s the kind of spread they’re going to need this year.
“The things A.B. is capable of doing at the position, he’s a freak. He’s so good,” tight end Vance McDonald said. “I think Ben [Roethlisberger] is the best quarterback that will allow us to take that piece that A.B. is giving in each game and allowing it to go through different avenues.”
Adding Moncrief to the mix is one notable difference, as the Steelers usually just cultivate their own wideouts. James Washington may have recovered from the bus tracks on his back in time to deliver on his potential, and rookie Dionte Johnson has a chance to play a bigger role as a rookie, among their other targets.