With 23 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 prediction in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our predictions for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that Vance McDonald will have double digit touchdowns this season on Monday, I turn my attention to one of his offensive teammates.
Prediction: JuJu Smith-Schuster will end the 2019 season with more receiving yards and receptions than Antonio Brown of the Oakland Raiders.
Why it will happen: As confident as I felt about my last prediction, this might be one that is ruled more by the heart than the head. That being said, I will still be putting my money on JuJu Smith-Schuster to have more yards and receptions than Antonio Brown when I place my player performance match bets this season.
While many expect something of a drop off from Smith-Schuster in his first year as the No.1 receiver, Ben Roethlisberger has few other ‘go-to’ targets left on the roster. It remains to be seen what level of chemistry he will build with newcomers Dionte Johnson and Donte Moncrief, and there is every chance that he will continue to force the ball to Smith-Schuster in the same way as he did with Brown regardless of the coverage.
The ability of Derek Carr to build a working relationship with Brown should not be taken as a given either, with Carr nowhere near the standard of quarterback that AB has become accustomed to. And with many of Brown’s biggest moments in Pittsburgh coming on broken plays and inspired magic between himslef and Big Ben, it seems fair to suggest that AB may struggle to record quite as many highlights in Oakland in 2019.
In five years with the Raiders, Carr has never thrown more than 89 completions to a single player in a season, and has only ever had a receiver go over 1000 yards in two of his five years. Roethlisberger, however, was racking up 1000 yards seasons with the likes of Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace long before AB was even in the league. To think he will not add another one to his collection in 2019 seems unlikely just a season removed from a career year in passing yards.
And if ever Smith-Schuster was motivated to prove he is one of the league’s elite wide receivers, the negativity surrounding Brown’s departure should have the young player suitably focused for the season ahead. A big year heading into his fourth and final season under contract could potentially make him one of the highest paid non-quarterbacks in the league, while a down year could significantly impact his future earnings.
Why it won’t happen: Have you seen Brown play?
Just as Smith-Schuster may feel he has something to prove without AB across from him, there can be little doubt that the league’s best receiver will want to show the Steelers what they are missing. Playing second fiddle to the young pretender in Pittsburgh was bad enough, but the thought of being considered second-best to Smith-Schuster on a league-wide scale must be unthinkable to Brown. There may be no motivated player in the NFL than AB in 2019.
Carr may not be on the level of Roethlisberger, but Brown has shown he can make up for all sorts of deficient throws. That is assuming the Raiders offensive line can keep the quarterback upright long enough and Jon Gruden can stay out of everyone's way. But if Carr can turn both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree into 1000 yards receiver, just imagine what he could do with Brown.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will JuJu Smith-Schuster have more yards and receptions than Antonio Brown in 2019?
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