Who does Ben Roethlisberger say is the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver?
With the season more than two-thirds complete and JuJu Smith-Schuster with more receiving yards and catches than Antonio Brown, the subject has been broached in regards to whether Brown remains the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver .
Brown had more catches between 2013-17 than any player over a five-season span in NFL history, but this season his 71 receptions trail the second-year Smith-Schuster’s 77. Brown’s yardage total of 874 also lags well behind the 22-year-old Smith-Schuster’s 1,055.
So who does the man that throws to the two dynamic pass-catchers think is his No. 1 option in 2018?
Is that Ben Roethlisberger sidestepped the question telling in itself?
“It feels like we have a bunch of No. 1 receivers,” the veteran quarterback said Wednesday. “I’d put (running back) James Conner in there. (Tight end) Vance McDonald. (Slot receiver/running back) Ryan Switzer. A.B. So, I’d put a lot of them as No. 1’s.”
Asked more directly, as a follow-up, if the 30-year-old Brown remains his top option, Roethlisberger further demurred.
“A No. 1 is a No. 1, so I am going to put all those at No. 1,” Roethlisberger said. “I am going to put all of those guys at No. 1, so I have a lot of top choices.”
For what it’s worth, even Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn during a conference call with Pittsburgh media Wednesday made reference to Roethlisberger’s “two No. 1 wide receivers.”
The Steelers (7-3-1) host the Chargers (8-3) on Sunday night.
Roethlisberger was critical of the route Brown ran on the final offensive play of Sunday’s loss at Denver, saying on his weekly 93.7 FM radio segment Tuesday that Brown “drifted” in the end zone on a pass that was intercepted and essentially ended the game.
That was the ninth pass this season targeted for Brown that has been intercepted, the most of any receiver in the NFL.
During the same radio segment as well as after Sunday’s game, Roethlisberger also praised Smith-Schuster. “He is reliable, dependable and trustworthy; I know he is going to be in the right spot,” Roethlisberger said Sunday.
On Tuesday on 93.7 FM, Roethlisberger said he “wish(ed) we would have gone back to JuJu for four straight plays” on that final fateful drive.
Brown’s succinct explanation of what he saw on the interception thrown to him Sunday: “All I saw was an interception.”
Brown remains on a pace to have 103 catches for 1,271 yards, numbers that would be his worst on a per-game basis since the 2012 season. But his 11 receiving touchdowns in 2018 are tied for the NFL lead and are on pace for a career-best.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.