The Pittsburgh Steelers passing game has new faces, meaning new production

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 after a 41 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field on November 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 after a 41 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field on November 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ben Roethlisberger, Vance McDonald and more are set to make the Pittsburgh Steelers one of the most dangerous passing teams in football.

Last season the Steelers Passing offense was ranked third in the NFL and was one of the most dynamic offenses through the air. Strolling down memory lane, rolling into last season the Steelers felt pretty good with their offensive wide out weapons with Antonio Brown, the best wide receivers in football, and finally getting often suspended Martavis Bryant back from his yearlong suspension do to multiple failed drug tests. However, Bryant never seemed to fit last season and was a major off the field distraction.

Bryant was often times calling off “sick” throughout the season and at one point demanded to be traded. During the season the Steelers did not grant his request and Martavis had a very disappointing season not nearly leaving up to the hype that his potential for finally commands. Bryant Stats were an all-time low of three touchdowns granted he played five more games and barley got over 600 receiving yards.

Coming into this season they moved on from one of the “Killer B’s,” giving into the trade demands by Martavis Bryant. The Steelers shipped Bryant off to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round selection in the draft this past April.

The NFL offseason is a player caracole that can completely change the dynamic of an entire team with any given moves via High profile free Agent signings.

The Steelers do not normally adhere to this philosophy but rather use the “Next Man Up,” low risk high reward free agent signings and build through the draft approach. Which has lead them to one of the best sports franchises of all time. This approach is also how they are building an even more exciting offense through these methods.

Despite the setback set by Bryant last season, the Steelers replaced his production with a surprising performance from second-round selection out of USC, JuJu smith-Schuster. JuJu made a great impact and took over for trouble receiver Martavis Bryant. He jumped on the sense and posted a 917 yard season coupled with seven touchdowns, and was great personality both on and off the field.

Though Bryant’s had a lack luster season it’s still hard to imagine the Steelers are able to post the same numbers or better without Bryant. Yes Smith-Schuster had a great season, but Bryant is just a physical freak of nature and with 4.3 speed and a towering 6’4 frame, he was always someone that defensive coordinators could not put in single coverage which helped free up Antonio Brown. So the question becomes “what do we do now?”

Predicting JuJu's 2018 season. light. Related Story

There are a few guys on this year’s rosters that I think could benefit from playing with the likes of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. In Steeler fashion they built in the draft and use the “next man up” approach.

Like last season, the Steelers selected a wide receiver in the second-round this past draft with a guy that has a lot of intangible tools, James Washington. Coming into this year’s draft, Washington, out of Oklahoma State, drew split opinions by experts on how high he was on their big boards.

His draft stock had him ranging from 5th to 15th overall at his position. I personal love this pick and think he has tremendous upside. At 5’11 and 4.5 speed one would not think that Washington is a stretch the field type receiver. But that is exactly what he did with the Cowboys in college.

Washington is built like a running back with very long arms, which is an over looked trait do to when he goes for 50/50 balls. He often times uses his think frame to box out the defensive back covering him to create good separation.

Washington’s tape shows that he plays much faster than his 40 time. Though he was not often challenged at the line of scrimmage in college. Washington’s big build allows him to get off the ball in press coverage and for breaking his routes with separation from what we saw when he was pressed. This should translate well in the NFL where he will see much more press at the next level.

One of Washington’s nocks coming out of college is his limited route tree and sloppy route running. He will have the best wide out in football to learn off of and with JuJu being a clear cut number two, the route tree can be gradually be added throughout the season.

I do not expect Washington to have the monster impact that JuJu had last season, but the potential is there in the future for him and he will be able to contribute greatly this season in a limited role.

Since the retirement of Heath Miller after the 2015 season, the Steelers have not found a true replacement at the position. They have tried to do so by singing the failed experiment of Ladarius Green by signing him to an out of character big time contract the following season four years for $20 million. Green only play six games and retired due to concussion issues.

The Steelers also went into the draft and came away with the big man Jesse James in the fifth-round as a project who has made some great strides but has not become the all-around talent that they need.  Thus, the Steelers have been just getting buy at the postion.

Going into last season, the Steelers made a move to add to the position that I think will have a huge impact for the coming season. The most underrated value to making the Steelers 2019 passing attach is a returning player in Vance McDonald. Last August the Steelers shipped a fourth-round pick to the 49ers in exchange for Vance McDonald and the 49ers fifth-round pick. Coming in so late in the offseason, McDonald had an uphill battle learning the playbook and gaining chemistry with quarter back Ben Roethlisberger.

McDonald did not have a great regular season, only posting 188 receiving yards and one touchdown in 10 games. However, hope was renewed in McDonalds postseason play when he was a huge highlight in the loss to Jacksonville.

McDonald had 10 Receptions for 112 yards and was the security blanket the Steelers need in the position for the past two years. The former Rice player seemed to be targeted every drive by Roethlisberger and McDonald proved why he was brought to Pittsburgh.

Having a tight end that can have 80 plus yard games with Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster, Washington and Bell makes the Steelers much more dangerous and very hard to defend. This allows the Steelers to show a spread Offense but also motion McDonald as a full back and run Power if the opposing defense runs out a nickel or dime defense. Also allowing the same set of players on the field to motion to 5 wide receivers using Bell and McDonald flexed out if the defense shows a heavy base of 34 or 43 defensive look.

The pass catching options they have coming into this season makes for a possible history season if all goes to plan. It should be fun to watch and give new offensive coordinator a lot to work with.

dark. Next. There's light at the end of the Le'Veon Bell tunnel

Randy Fichtener, previously the Steelers QB coach, has been promoted to offensive coordinator as his first time at this title. It seems to be he is not as prideful and willing to lean on his veteran QB a sure Hall of Famer, Ben Roethlisberger, to have more control of the offense and run the no huddle more often. Giving Ben more control and an OC that he likes to work with coupled by all the on field talent the Steelers Offense is poised to put up big numbers and it could be one for the record books.