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Steelers News: Trying to pinpoint the cause for Antonio Brown’s slow start

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are finally in the win column after their prime-time win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium. On a short week, they don’t have time to dwell on the win, what with the Baltimore Ravens coming into Heinz Field for a Week-4, prime-time game on Sunday Night Football. Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-Gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet, and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we delve into why Antonio Brown hasn’t been...well...Antonio Brown to start the 2018 regular season. According to some, the team’s offensive balance among their receivers might just be the crux of this issue.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers’ balance hurting Antonio Brown’s numbers

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Through three weeks, perennial All-Pro Antonio Brown is on pace for his least productive season in six years. Ben Roethlisberger has a theory why.

“(Opponents) are definitely still (double-teaming) and grabbing hold of him like they always have,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday morning on his weekly 93.7 FM radio show. “I think it’s maybe just as much me looking at other guys and not trying to force it to him.”

Brown had six catches for 50 yards in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 30-27 win at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. He was targeted nine times, second-most on the team to JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 11.

Through three games, Brown has been the target of 30.2 percent of Roethlisberger’s throws (42 of 139). That’s not markedly different than last season, for example, when Brown was targeted on 31.8 percent of Roethlisberger’s passes in the 13 full games Brown played (160 of 502). Over the first three weeks last season, Brown was the target on 32.7 percent of Roethlisberger’s passes.

But Brown had 354 receiving yards after three games last season and finished with 1,533. He has 210 this season, a pace to finish with 1,120. That would be his fewest since 2012.

“I am sure he’s frustrated a little bit,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s used to 1,500-yard seasons. (Brown hasn’t) had a 100-yard game yet. So I think you get frustrated when you get used to the big numbers. That can happen. (But) winning helps cure everything, and we won (Monday). I think he’s still a little frustrated, but he got a touchdown and we won the game.”

Mark Madden: Temper enthusiasm over Steelers’ victory

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Refreshing sports notes all night, party every day! You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy …

• The Steelers finally won. But it was against a team picked by most to finish last in the NFC South. They faced a backup quarterback, albeit one who was red-hot. They nearly blew a 20-point lead. The Steelers are 1-1-1 when many thought they would be 3-0, and they have a point differential of minus-2. You almost can’t be any more .500. So the time for rejoicing is not yet upon us.

• If the Steelers go on to bigger and better, Vance McDonald’s punishing double-shot stiff arm on the way to a 75-yard first-quarter touchdown might be remembered as a moment of coalescence. Poor Chris Conte. The Tampa Bay safety left the game with a knee injury. The vibrations traveled south from his head with damaging effect.

• The Steelers committed 13 penalties at Tampa Bay after 12 vs. Kansas City and 12 at Cleveland. They are the NFL’s most penalized team in terms of infractions and yardage. Special-teams jabroni Darrius Heyward-Bey took a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at a crucial fourth-quarter juncture Monday. Jordan Dangerfield drew a flag on the opening kickoff. The Steelers’ discipline and focus are nonexistent. How can the distractions and turmoil not be contributing to that?

Coty Sensabaugh is somebody else’s fourth-round pick. He has been cut so many times, it’s a wonder he hasn’t bled to death. He started at corner ahead of homegrown first-round pick Artie Burns on Monday. That doesn’t bode well for Burns, nor does getting beat badly for a 24-yard touchdown and a 51-yard pass in that game despite limited snaps.

• Le’Veon Bell’s considerable skills duly noted, there are lots of reasons to not trade for him or sign him when he hits free agency. Given his absence from the Steelers and his sideshow antics in the interim, it’s reasonable to wonder how much Bell loves football and if he’ll be dedicated to his craft once he gets all that guaranteed money. Bell’s toxicity outweighs his talent. Here’s betting Bell is never again the player he was while with the Steelers.

James Conner isn’t as good as Bell. But he’s good enough. His inspired downhill running in the fourth quarter at Tampa put the result to bed. Conner competes. Bell gets hurt.

• JuJu Smith-Schuster had better stats than Antonio Brown in each of the Steelers’ three games. If that continues, it will create problems. Brown will ultimately super-kick Smith-Schuster through the barbershop window. No one out-pizzas the Hut, and no one out-stats Brown.

• Kicker Chris Boswell is already a problem. Boswell got big money, but so far this year, he has missed three of four field goals and two of 11 extra points. That subpar performance can’t continue indefinitely. Kickers are disposable.

• Here’s the “logical” progression for situations such as Brown missing mandatory meetings yet still playing the next game: Seattle safety Earl Thomas is in the last year of his deal, so he skipped two practices last week but still played Sunday.

Steelers to stick with Artie Burns, Coty Sensabaugh, Cameron Sutton rotation at CB

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Listening to Mike Tomlin, it doesn’t sound as if Artie Burns has earned his starting job at right cornerback. But the gig hasn’t been given to anyone else, either.

During his news conference Tuesday, Tomlin said that “the rotation will continue” between Burns, veteran Coty Sensabaugh and second-year Cameron Sutton at the cornerback spot across from Joe Haden.

“We’ve been playing them all, but we’ve given up some balls down the grass,” Tomlin said. “…We’ll continue to play all three of those guys. All three of those guys work; they are putting themselves in position to make plays – but they are not making enough of them. Until we get that, the rotation will continue.”

Burns’ streak of 27 consecutive starts dating back to his 2016 rookie season ended Monday night when the Steelers went with Sensabaugh to start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that led the NFL in passing through two weeks.

Sensabaugh, who was a healthy scratch in Week 1, played about two-thirds of the Steelers’ 74 defensive snaps in the 30-27 win; Burns played the other 34 percent of the snaps. Sutton played 20 snaps, but most of those were in the slot after Mike Hilton was injured.

Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick had 411 passing yards and three touchdown passes.

Tomlin wouldn’t say if the “rotation” going forward would be a pattern (a series at a time) or where the “hot hand” would play.

“I’m not going to frame it; we will play it by ear,” Tomlin said. “I am not going to box myself in.”

Ben Roethlisberger questions NFL’s rash of roughing the passer flags

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The NFL’s roughing the passer penalties have gotten so rampant that even the quarterbacks are noting the sheer volume.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who got hit on two penalized plays in Monday night’s 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, pointed out NFL viewership could be affected by the flags.

”There’s a lot of them,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t want to criticize the officiating, especially when you’re talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out. I was surprised at the first one. The second one I thought was legit. He hit me in the helmet. It was kind of like hearing that loud ring when your helmet gets hit.

”There are sure a lot of them. I can’t imagine the fans at home are enjoying it too much.”

The game featured four roughing the passer penalties (two by each team), tied for the most in a single game since 2001, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information.