Ever since the 2011 season, I always believed that Antonio Brown was the best receiver on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many people could easily make the argument for Mike Wallace, and that’s fine. Wallace had that big play potential and often received more attention than Brown. However, with Wallace now joining the Dolphins in south beach, there is no argument anymore.
Antonio Brown is the best receiver on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I’m going to throw Brown’s (as well as the Steelers as a whole) 2012 season out the window. He dealt with a nasty high ankle sprain for the majority of the season, resulting in suiting up for just 13 games. However, despite missing three contests, as well as playing with a banged up ankle, Brown still managed to haul in 66 balls for 787 yards and five scores. If he can put up those numbers while ailing injury, a banged up quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and an atrocious offensive line, I can’t wait to see what he can do in 2013 when he is “the guy” in this passing offense. In 2012, Brown only dropped 2.9 percent of his 105 targets, and only five wideouts had a lower drop percentage on as many targets. Speaking of targets, Brown saw a little over eight targets per contest, despite Wallace also being in the mix. Like I mentioned before, Wallace is gone. Like I mentioned before, I love Antonio Brown in 2013.
While Brown doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a prototypical number one receiver (5’10″, 186 lbs), that doesn’t matter to me one bit. Brown is a polished route-runner who obviously possesses tremendous hands and 4.4 speed. More importantly, he’ll have the opportunity on an offense that will more than likely implement a passing game that favors his skill-set. Last year, Heath Miller ended up catching the most passes (71) out of any Pittsburgh wide receiver. His aDOT (average depth of target) was only 7.7, but Haley’s short-passing scheme helped Miller finish as fantasy’s number four tight end in 2012. The reason I bring up Miller is because if he can catch 71 balls and thrive under Haley’s offense, a healthy Brown should flirt with 90 catches this season, making him a very strong candidate in PPR formats. Haley will line Brown up all over the place, attempting to get him short catches that give him running space to make plays after the catch. The Steelers must obviously have big plans in store for Brown because they gave him a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension not too long ago, despite still needing to resign Wallace. The team MVP from 2011, Brown caught 69 balls that year while playing a full 16 games. To put into perspective just how much Haley used Brown last year, he caught just three fewer passes, despite missing three games. At 25-years old, the sky is the limit for Brown in 2013.
I honestly think Brown is a player who can consistently make the Pro Bowl (did so in 2011), and his offensive coordinator has worked with a ton of Pro Bowl wideoutd throughout his career. Guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Terrell Owens and Dwayne Bowe have become top-notch receivers under Haley. Now, I’m not saying Brown is as talented as any of these guys, but the opportunity is there for him to emerge under Haley. Big Ben has always favored Brown in the passing game, even when Wallace was in town, so I can’t wait to see the targets he accumulates this season. Coming off the board as the number 23 fantasy receiver, owners may be able to get a top-15 wideout at that price.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.