PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger isn’t hiding from the transition he faces without Antonio Brown, who isn’t a part of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp for the first time in nearly a decade. The Roethlisberger-Brown marriage was rocky, but the production historic.
Replacing it won’t be easy, Roethlisberger says.
“It will be different. I think things we did together were some things that no one’s really ever really done,” Roethlisberger said Friday. “Peyton [Manning] and Marvin [Harrison], maybe. In the last few years we did it, it was something special. It’s going to be hard to make up for that. But I’m going to do my best to still bring my A-game and I know other guys are ready to step up and bring everything they can to the table.”
From 2010-18, Roethlisberger and Brown became the fifth duo to connect on 700 receptions. They combined for 10,000-plus yards and 74 touchdowns together.
The Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders in March after the receiver disparaged the team and quarterback publicly, missed work days and demanded to be dealt.
Other receivers are eager to pick up the slack. JuJu Smith-Schuster will replace Brown as the No. 1 receiver, while Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Eli Rogers and rookie Diontae Johnson will contribute.
Switzer pointed out Brown left behind about 170 available targets for the new guys.
“Two guys don’t make a team,” said Switzer, a nod to Brown and former Steelers tailback Le’Veon Bell.
Luckily for the Steelers, Roethlisberger is eager to answer the challenge of losing great players. He says his arm feels as strong as it ever has, and he plans to play out his three-year contract, taking him to age 39 on the field.
Yards are irrelevant to Roethlisberger, who, despite leading the league with 5,129 yards and 675 passing attempts, points out he’d rather throw for 5 yards and win than 500 and lose.
“I have to play better. I’ll always start with myself,” Roethlisberger said. “We missed the playoffs last year … We need to come out and prove we are a force to be reckoned with.”