Facing extra defensive coverage this season, Brown is on pace for 110 receptions and 1,354 yards — down from his average of 133 catches and 1,766 yards over the past two years.
“We weren’t winning our battles, making completions, executing on third down — a number of things all happening at the same time,” tight end Jesse James acknowledged, per ESPN.com. “This week was not good enough. We have to prepare better and come ready to play.”
Slot receiver Eli Rodgers led Pittsburgh with a career-high 103 yards in Week 9, all of that production coming in the fourth quarter when Baltimore had already raced out to a 21-0 lead.
Deep threat Sammie Coates has been plagued by shaky hands, disappearing for long stretches on the road.
It’s telling that the team’s second-leading receiver is running back Le’Veon Bell, who missed the first three games of the season with a suspension of his own.
So where do the Steelers turn to take pressure off of Brown?
Rodgers is finally healthy enough to solidify the slot role. Wheaton will have an opportunity to re-enter the rotation with Coates, Tomlin said Tuesday.
After leaning heavily on Heath Miller for the past decade, Ben Roethlisberger also needs speedy tight end Ladarius Green stretching defenses down the seam. Green has a chance to make his long-awaited Pittsburgh debut in a marquee matchup with the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys after putting in a “really good week” of practice last week, Tomlin confirmed.
The AFC North is there for the taking. If the Steelers are going to make a serious postseason run, though, they need some combination of Rodgers, Coates, Wheaton and Green to make defenses pay for doubling Brown.