During his weekly press conference, Mike Tomlin addressed the issue of other players benefiting from the focus given to QB-WR tandems who have enjoyed past success. Specifically, Tomlin spoke of Falcons’ rookie Calvin Ridley and his six touchdown catches on the season.
“It’s interesting,” Tomlin stated. “Julio being the guy that he is and the touches and attention that he gets and rightfully so. He’s got zero touchdowns and Ridley’s got six. I just think that speaks to some of the things that usually transpire during the first quarter of the season as people get familiar with new weapons.”
Tomlin went on to make the same comparison with his own players.
“(Teams) work to minimize old or existing weapons and I think the same thing can be said about what is going on with Ben and AB in terms of people working hard to minimize them and the opportunity it’s created for some of our guys.”
There’s no doubt that JuJu Smith–Schuster has been the primary beneficiary of the focus teams have put on Antonio Brown. On the season, JuJu has 31 receptions for 416 yards and one touchdown.
Although Ridley (15 receptions for 264 yards) doesn’t have nearly the receptions or yardage Smith-Schuster has amassed so far in 2018, his six touchdowns can be directly related to teams trying to shut down Julio Jones.
When asked about the disconnect between Rothlisberger and Brown so far this season, Coach Tomlin once again came back to the same comparison with the Falcons.
“Like I said earlier in regards to Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, often times people spend a lot of time in the off-season working to minimize tandems such as Ben and AB. Usually, over the course of the journey, the cream rises and they’ll show what they are capable of. They’ve done it for a long time. I anticipate that happening while we continue to work to infuse some of our new targets into the mix.”
Tomlin did mention James Washington specifically as one of those new targets. He also went on to confirm, “JuJu has probably benefited from some of that attention.”
Coach Tomlin did say the Steelers will have to account for Ridley in their defensive game plan. But failing to acknowledge the Falcons’ Ryan-Jones connection would be foolish.
“They’ll be the formidable tandem they always are.”