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Do the Steelers have a true No. 1 receiver? It doesn’t seem to matter

Do the Steelers have a true number one receiver? They are proving it means very little.

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

If Antonio Brown were still playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, how do you think he’d feel about being their leading receiver in catches after three games?

Knowing Brown like you do, you’d probably assume he’d be fine with it. Yeah, but how would you feel if I told you the total was 17 receptions? How about yards? Do you think he’d be fine with 160?

How do you think Brown would feel about making it three weeks without reaching double-digits in catches in a game or triple-digits in yards?

Enough of these questions. They are all just a long-winded way of saying that if Brown were still with the Steelers in 2020, he may have already made a social media video asking his son to ask the Steelers to throw Daddy the football.

Do the 2020 Steelers have a number one receiver after three games? If you’re talking statistically, sure, because JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team with 17 receptions for 160 yards. But Diontae Johnson isn’t far behind, with 14 catches for 149 yards. As for rookie Chase Claypool, he has just six receptions, but for 151 yards.

The last time Brown played with the Steelers in 2018, his quarterback was Ben Roethlisberger, and he threw 16 interceptions that season. A good many of those interceptions came when Roethlisberger was targeting Brown. The feeling held by many for years was that Roethlisberger felt pressure to get Brown the football just enough to not only keep him from making social media posts, but from also nagging him the entire game. Brown was/is a diva receiver, and diva receivers are always open. And if they’re not open, they think they’re open. And even if they know they’re not getting open, they think they’ll get open the next time they line up across from the defensive back who’s been covering him like a blanket all day.

It’s exhausting.

I don’t know how egotistical Johnson, Smith-Schuster, Claypool and even James Washington, owner of 10 catches and 92 receiving yards on the season, are as individuals, but none of them appear to have the diva gene.

None of them have really shown they can carry the mail as the number one receiver, either, at least without Brown around to demand all those targets. But you know what, who cares? The Steelers seem to have a bounty of number two receivers (for now), and the passing attack appears to be functioning just fine with Roethlisberger back at the helm.

Roethlisberger’s had three productive games for a 38-year old quarterback just returning from major elbow surgery. This is just a guess, but the veteran is probably not feeling the pressure of getting anyone the football, save for the open man.

When you look at who Roethlisberger has targeted so far through three games, he appears to be distributing the wealth quite evenly. Johnson leads the way with 25 targets (that’s a lot of targets for 14 catches—a future diva?), Smith-Schuster is right behind him with 19 and moving on down the line, Eric Ebron, a newly-acquired tight end believed to carry the diva gene, has been targeted 14 times so far this season.

Not bad all the way around.

It’s obviously still very early in the Steelers 2020 campaign, but it appears their receiving corps functions just as well with many very good worker bees as it once did with one potent killer B.