The one free agent the Steelers messed up not targeting
Of course, Pittsburgh does have Pro Bowl wideout Juju Smith-Schuster, but he will be tested next season as he’ll be the clear primary target for Ben Roethlisberger. He’ll see defensive schemes against him like he has never seen before after benefiting from double coverages against Brown.
Targeting a wide receiver in free agency should have been one of the team’s top priorities to help lessen the blow left by Brown’s absence. That is why the Pittsburgh Steelers should have replaced Antonio with another receiver with the last name Brown: former Baltimore Ravens receiver John Brown.
The Steelers were smart not to use free agency as a means to replace Antonio Brown in the long term. That would have ended up costing too much for the likes of a Tyrell Williams, who also ended up in Oakland
Acquiring John Brown would have helped the offense remain dynamic. Instead, they settled for Donte Moncrief like Brown signed a deal with the Buffalo Bills.
Brown is an elite vertical threat receiver. That is how JuJu Smith-Schuster thrived opposite of Antonio. He not only commanded double teams, but he takes defenders out of the picture vertically. That would have left Smith-Schuster to take everything under and across the middle.
John Brown will obviously not be a lethal threat to draw a double team, but he can at least keep a defense honest. His big play making ability thanks to his speed keeps defenses from being too cute.
Brown is a fairly underrated receiver. His numbers for the entire 2018 season look okay, but he was on pace to being close to 1,000 yards receiving. When Lamar Jackson took over the reins at quarterback for Joe Flacco, Brown never reeled in more than two catches in a game. In fact, he only caught two balls in two games. That is a dramatic drop in production as he was clearly underutilized.
Prior to the Ravens’ Week 10 bye with Joe Flacco starting, Brown tallied for 34 receptions 601 receiving yards and three touchdowns. After Week 10 with Jackson at the helm, he only managed eight catches with 114 yards receiving and one touchdown.
Brown easily would’ve fit the mold of the Steelers offense.Roethlisberger needs to have a vertical threat receiver to truly utilize his abilities.
Signing Brown would have kept the Steelers’ offense sufficiently strong enough to be in the playoff hunt. The depth at receiver still would have been lacking in a way because it is impossible to fully fill the void left by Antonio Brown.
Expect the Steelers to look to the draft for their long-term option at receiver, as well as to help them make a push for the playoffs in 2019. They can still make noise in the AFC North, but if they can’t figure out who can pair up with Smith-Schuster, their offense will take a step down next season.