Give me 10 push-ups! Competition fuels post-A.B. Steelers offense

Dolphins, Steelers among AFC teams with question marks (1:20)

Louis Riddick and Damien Woody list the Dolphins and Steelers respectively as teams with holes to fill before the season starts. (1:20)

PITTSBURGH -- Vance McDonald has seen too much from Antonio Brown to think one player alone will replace his 1,500 yards of yearly production.

Even trying will require serious teamwork from the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

"The things A.B. is capable of doing at the position, he’s a freak. He’s so good," the veteran tight end said of Brown, who was traded to the Oakland Raiders in March. "I think Ben (Roethlisberger) is the best quarterback that will allow us to take that piece that A.B. is giving in each game and allowing it to go through different avenues."

That navigation promises to fascinate in a new era of Steelers football.

Pittsburgh's post-Brown offense will prioritize versatility, creativity and an equal opportunity approach. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the obvious primary option for Roethlisberger and will most likely post big numbers. Behind him is depth and intrigue but a lack of star power.

The Steelers believe they have at least nine viable pass-catching options which Roethlisberger will surely utilize. In a two-game stretch without Brown in late 2017, Roethlisberger completed passes to nine other Steelers, with four players catching at least four balls.

Jobs aren't promised. Competition is driving each OTA session.

"Everybody's pushing each other -- you got a drop, you've got 10 push-ups," free-agent addition Donte Moncrief said. "Everybody's trying to bring energy ... Make plays, don't come out here lagging ... I feel like everybody' going to be able to help. Everyone's ready to play. Everybody knows JuJu is going to get a lot of attention. We have to be able to help him out, take some double-teams away and beat man so the defense has to cover everybody."

Moncrief is crucial to that competition because of newness and pedigree.

The Steelers mostly know what they have from their supporting skill guys.

McDonald is poised for an expanded role after a 50-catch campaign in 2018. He's ready for it, and the Steelers know more yards are available over the middle.

Despite an erratic rookie year, James Washington posted two 60-plus-yard games in the final three weeks last season and dropped 15 pounds in the offseason. He's getting off the line of scrimmage quicker now.

The Steelers value Ryan Switzer's versatility and quickness. He can line up in the slot, in the backfield or on the outside.

Eli Rogers is a classic matchup option. He can still beat man coverage in spots.

Third-round pick Diontae Johnson will have time to develop, but the Steelers hope his route-running ability helps him crack the lineup sooner than later.

Xavier Grimble will get a legitimate look as the No. 2 tight end. He's earned that. If his hands prove reliable, his athleticism and physical blocking can take over.

Not many have more riding on this year than Moncrief, who's trying to redirect his career after a rocky one-year experiment in Jacksonville. His 21 career touchdowns make him a compelling red zone target for Big Ben. Moncrief doesn't own an 800-yard season, but he also caught passes from Scott Tolzien and Blake Bortles in Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

The Steelers offense is challenging Moncrief, traditionally an outside guy, to know all three receiver positions. Roethlisberger can change a matchup at the line of scrimmage on any down, Moncrief points out.

"I know this is a huge year for me," Moncrief said. "New team, everybody looking for me to make big plays. I have to be ready."

McDonald is eager to see how coaches configure the pieces. The Steelers' 689 passing attempts last season led the league by 45. Receptions won't be scarce.

"It will be fun and interesting to see how we can be creative and allow that to happen," McDonald said. "Great players are great players, but at the end of the day it’s 11 guys taking care of their job. I think we have the guys -- not necessarily (do they have) Brown and Bell on the back of their jerseys, but man, if you can play the position and do what you are asked to do and can make plays, then we’re going to get it done.”

McDonald is confident coming off a 15-game season, his most since his rookie year in 2013.

Ensuring a bigger role might require some schmoozing.

"Handle my job and buy Ben a lot of presents," McDonald said.