When NFL fans think of the league’s best wide receivers, several names come to mind: Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and many others. One name that is never even suggested is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Brown has made his second career Pro Bowl, his first as a receiver, and is turning into one of the more unlikely and legitimate young receivers in the league.
Brown can do it all. He returns punts, carries the football, has tremendous hands and has even thrown passes for the Steelers. This season, Brown set individual and team records with receptions and yards in a season. Brown played in all 16 games and tallied 1,499 yards, which was second-best in the NFL behind only Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns.
Brown’s 110 receptions ranked second only to Pierre Garcon of the Washington Redskins, and he averaged 93.7 yards per game this 2013 season.
Those are some astounding numbers for any receiver in the league, but even after all of the accolades, Brown still doesn’t get the credit that he truly deserves. Think about the receivers that were listed above: Gordon, Fitzgerald, Johnson. All are big-bodied receivers that are able to go up and get the football, allowing the quarterback to simply throw a jump ball and hope their big man will come down with it. Brown is the opposite of those receivers.
Brown stands at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, and relies on his skills in running with the ball after the catch to garner most of his yards. In offensive coordinator Todd Haley‘s west coast-style offense, Brown has to make all of the catches — the quick screens, over the middle and deep down the field. Brown has developed a great rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and that chemistry is paying huge dividends for the wide receiver and the Steelers organization.
As a true no. 1 receiver who is most likely going to see his fellow wide receiving corps change this season with the expected departure of Emmanuel Sanders, will Brown be able to duplicate the success he had in 2013? That is a question that will only be answered with time, but one thing is for certain: defenses better give Brown the attention of a no. 1 receiver, or else he will make them pay for it.