How was your week?

Posted: February 23, 2019 by Sports Time Radio in football, sports, Sports Time Radio, Uncategorized

How different will the Pittsburgh Steelers look next season?

Now everyone knows that there’s turnover on an NFL roster between every season but when was the last time a team had to replace it’s top two offensive weapons? I’m trying to think when was the last time an NFL team lost two players as important to their offense as it looks like the Steelers will this off season. What will the Steelers do to replace these players?

As I’m sure you figured out, I was talking about Le’von Bell and Antonio Brown. It does appear as though the Steelers have the players they think can help fill the void when these two players leave but are they correct?

Of course the Steelers had to figure out how to replace Bell this past season as he sat out the entire season after being franchised tagged for the second season in a row.

James Connor stepped in for Bell at running back and I believe he ended up putting up better numbers than most people thought he would. Connor played in 13 games last season starting 12 of them. He carried the football 215 times for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns. Connor also caught 55 passes for 497 yards and 1 touchdown. Missing three plus games with injury prevented Connor from putting up a 1000 yard rushing season. So it looks like he’s a capable replacement in the running game for Bell but can he fill his shoes as a receiver?

The passing game is where Bell’s biggest contention in his pay seems to be. Bell is one of the few running backs in the NFL that a team doesn’t have to take off the field in obvious passing situations and in the NFL receivers are paid much better than running backs are. Bell wanted to be paid not only as a top tier running back but also as the top receiver that he is. In 2017 Bell caught a career high 85 passes for 655 yards and 2 touchdowns. In his 5 year career Bell has caught 312 passes and that’s including 2015 where he played just 6 games due to injury.

Bell was second on the team with those 85 receptions in 2017 behind only Antonio Brown but to be fair to Connor, he was 3rd on the Steelers in receptions last season behind Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Bell appears to be a special combination of a running back who has top flight receiving skills. Do you think that this will get high the contract he wants? Where do you think he’ll end up playing next season?

Of course the other offensive star who wants out of Pittsburgh is Brown, but will be able to force his way out vis trade? Brown has a large social media presence and has already said goodbye to the Steelers fans on that platform. He also had a meeting with Steelers owner Dan Rooney and it appears that both sides seem to think that trading Brown is the teams best options.

Brown will have some big receiving numbers to replace. He has caught at least 101 passes in a season since 2013. Over those six seasons he’s led the NFL in receptions twice and yards twice. Last season his 15 touchdown receptions led the league. Brown has seven 1000 yard season in his nine year career.

Brown’s numbers last season where very good again as he caught 104 passes for 1297 yards and those 15 touchdowns, but for the first time in six seasons Brown wasn’t the Steelers leaders in receptions or yards. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team with 111 receptions and 1426 while adding 7 touchdowns.

After Brown and Smith-Schuster the next wide receiver; Ryan Switzer had 46 receptions. Of course tight ends Vance McDonald with 50 receptions and Jesse James with 30 receptions also help in the passing game.

It doesn’t appear that Switzer would be the guy to take over for Brown as a starting wide receiver though. There have been reports that if the Steelers don’t use a high draft pick on a receiver, that James Washington would be the guy they turn to take over as the starting wide receiver opposite Smith-Schuster.

The Steelers took Washington in the 2nd round, 60th overall of the 2018 draft. Washington played in 14 games starting 6 of them. He caught 16 passes for 217 yards and 1 touchdown.

Can Washington step up as a second year player and help shoulder the load that Brown carried in the Steelers offense? Or could he at least provide enough help so that Smith-Schuster can ascend to the top eschelon of NFL receivers.

What do you see the Steelers doing; will they go with Washington as their #2 receiver next season? Will they use a high draft pick on a wide receiver? Or is it possible that they’ll try to sign a free agent to help replace Brown?

One thing is for sure if the Steelers want to return to the playoffs next season which they missed out last season for the first time in five years. They’re going to need both Connor and Smith-Schuster to take that next step into NFL superstardom.

We didn’t even get into the Ben Rothlisberger discussion and I’m not talking about the stories that have come out in the media this week but the fact that Rothlisberger is in the final year of his contract and he’ll turn 37 years old in March.

Rothlisberger himself has mentioned retirement the last couple of off-seasons and you have to wonder if the offense struggles next season with new pieces being put in place for Bell and Brown if Rothlisberger might just walk away.

The Steelers do have three other quarterbacks under contract. Do you think that Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs or Brogan Roback is the heir apparent to Rothlisberger?

Without Brown and Bell the Steelers will look different on offense next season. If Rothlisberger walks away after the 2020 season imagine how much change the offense will go through.

You can listen to the Sports Time Radio podcast live on BlogTalkRadio.com. If you miss the live broadcast of Sports Time Radio the podcast is available for you to listen to any time you want at TuneIn.Com.

Feel free to look me up on Twitter @Burketime

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