Despite the absence of their All-Pro running back, the offense has not been an issue for Pittsburgh, which is 0-1-1 entering Monday night's matchup at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brown has nine receptions in each of the first two games and has been matched by second-year wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, who also has 18 catches and a touchdown.
One of the more unlikely offensive standouts, however, has been tight end Jesse James, who entered his fourth NFL season projected to serve as a backup to Vance McDonald.
Instead, with McDonald injured through the preseason, James has made the most of his chances, continuing a steady progression since Pittsburgh drafted him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Penn State.
James is coming off a monster performance in a 42-37 loss to Kansas City, hauling in five catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. Not only was it a career high in yardage, but it marked James' first 100-yard game.
Still, James knows this could be his last year in the Steel City. He is in the final season of his rookie contract and will be a free agent in 2019, but James is trying to keep his focus on the field.
"I would have loved to have a contract done and set in stone. But it is what it is," James told ESPN. "Just give me another year to prove myself, see what happens after the season. I'm focused on winning a Super Bowl."
James has increased his production in each of his first three seasons in Pittsburgh, catching just eight passes as a rookie before boosting his totals to 39 receptions in 2016 and a career-best 43 in 2017. He had three touchdown catches in each of the last two seasons.
Yet the 6-foot-7, 261-pound James has watched the Steelers attempt to fortify his position since veteran tight end Heath Miller announced his retirement after the 2015 season.
Pittsburgh signed Ladarius Green to a long-term deal in 2016 -- he was cut a year later -- before acquiring McDonald in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers just prior to last season.
"There's no doubt about that. I'm used to it," said James. "This is my fourth year, and this has happened a few times. Vance has been her for two years. I'm a little bit of an underdog. Gotta earn what's yours and try to stay on the field at a high level."