Antonio Brown is gone, and Ben Roethlisberger knows that it's going to take a collective effort, not one person, to help replace Brown's influence in Pittsburgh's offense in 2019. Brown, even in games when he only caught two passes, forced defenses to focus on stopping him while allowing the rest of the Steelers' offense more room to operate.
That being said, Big Ben believes that JuJu Smith-Schuster is more than capable of leading the charge with regard to making up for the loss of Brown. Roethlisberger said as much during his recent one-on-one interview with KDKA's Bob Pompeani.
"I've talked to [Smith-Schuster] a lot, I've been around him a lot this offseason and I think he's up for the challenge," Roethlisberger said. "He's excited. He's working his butt off to be that guy."
After spending some time on the west coast earlier this offseason, JuJu has been back at Pittsburgh's faculty over the last several weeks taking part in the team's voluntary workouts. Last month, Smith-Schuster publicly congratulated new Pittsburgh receiver Diontae Johnson, who will look to help take the pressure off of Brown while creating more space for JuJu to do his damage.
While JuJu will be Roethlisberger's top target moving forward, Smith-Schuster won't be tasked with carrying Pittsburgh's passing attack by himself. Earlier this offseason, the team re-signed veteran wideout Eli Rogers, a tough, dependable secondary option that came on strong near the end of the 2018 season after missing most of the year rehabbing an ACL injury. Pittsburgh also signed veteran receiver Donte Moncrief, who caught 20 touchdown passes during his first five NFL seasons. The Steelers have also (unofficially) parted ways with veteran wideouts Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Hunter never panned out after signing with the team as a free agent in 2017, while Heyward-Bey, despite being a tremendous team leader and locker room presence, could not be kept on the roster after catching just nine passes over the past three seasons.
Ryan Switzer, a late 2018 offseason acquisition, will return after having a very solid first season in Pittsburgh. Despite joining the team just before the start of the regular season, Switzer caught 36 of his 44 targets while serving as a dependable option in the slot position. Switzer should be even more productive in 2019 as he looks to build on his rapport with Big Ben.