During Day 2 of Steelers minicamp at the Rooney Complex, Smith-Schuster was asked his feelings toward Brown and the messy breakup with the Steelers following the 2018 regular season. Rather than fueling the fire, Smith-Schuster kept it classy.
"I liked him as a role model, and that situation, I didn't want it to end like that," Smith-Schuster said. "I have no hard feelings against him. Obviously, if we're ever in the same room, I'm going to say 'what's up' to him. I think hatred is a huge word to use against somebody. At the end of the day, he is a great player. He comes out every day. He has work ethic. He worked hard."
While Brown was shipped west to the Raiders in March, he has remained a prominent storyline for this Steelers team as they head into 2019. Brown leaves behind enormous production: 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2018 — and that's a down year for him — but Smith-Schuster is seeing nothing but positives in the wake of Brown's departure.
"It's a difference when there are no individuals, there's just 'team,'" Smith-Schuster said. "I think that's what we have here that's special... The chemistry, I think we have. We're the Steelers. There are always expectations to go to the playoffs, win games and rake it up."
Smith-Schuster doesn't sound too concerned on the pure statistics front, either. It was actually Smith-Schuster, not Brown, who led the Steelers in receptions (111) and yards (1,426) in 2018, and he feels he can improve on those already-elite numbers.
"I think we all can be more productive," Smith-Schuster said. "There's always room to improve. Never satisfied."
To make up the rest of Brown's game? Simply look around the locker room. The Steelers are loaded with playmakers, from their runnings backs to their tight ends to their receivers. With a Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger leading the way, Smith-Schuster seems unconcerned with the process of replacing Brown. The answer is obvious.
"There's so much, all those catches, all those yards — we just spread it out," Smith-Schuster said. "Ryan Switzer, Moncrief, our new receiver, [Diontae Johnson], those catches, those yards, those all [will be made up with] receivers, running backs, tight ends, everybody. It's not just one person."