JuJu Smith-Schuster ready for No. 1 role with Steelers if needed

ORLANDO -- JuJu Smith-Schuster has made clear he doesn't want Antonio Brown traded. Brown makes the Steelers better, he says.

But if the team disagrees and trades Brown, it's no secret where Smith-Schuster is headed -- to the very top of the Steelers' receiver depth chart as Ben Roethlisberger's top option.

Embracing such a chance is the reason why Smith-Schuster is at the Pro Bowl after a team-high 111 catches for 1,426 yards.

"It's a responsibility every receiver loves to have," Smith-Schuster said about the possibility after Wednesday's Pro Bowl practice.

Brown's absence in Week 17 showed life without him isn't always easy. The Steelers beat the Bengals 16-13 but failed to score on their first four drives. But Smith-Schuster found the end zone that day and proved the Steelers' most consistent weapon on the way to a team Most Valuable Player award, as voted on by teammates.

With Smith-Schuster as the No. 1, the Steelers would need James Washington to build on his late-season success. Washington struggled with confidence issues as a rookie, but teammates see the immense talent, which led to 60-plus-yard-games in two of the last three weeks.

Tight end Vance McDonald figures to enhance his role, too.

"Those defenses would change versus me [in that case]," Smith-Schuster said. "Obviously somebody else would have to step up."

Smith-Schuster isn't worried about that -- or Brown's business -- right now. Smith-Schuster said he has reached out to Brown and hasn't heard back but isn't worried. Players are on vacation and contact is minimal. Smith-Schuster "no doubt" expects to talk with Brown sometime soon.

As for the source of Brown's frustration, Smith-Schuster said he's focused on himself. He has a chance to savor the moment in Orlando.

"I never thought I'd be here this far," he said. "I'm always hungry, always want more."