Brown's effort opens up Steelers' offense
It's becoming increasingly clear that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is a perfect fit for Todd Haley's offense.
He proved that Sunday night when he made most of the big catches in the second half to help lift the Steelers to a 24-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Brown began the season confidently embracing lofty expectations after signing a lucrative contract during training camp. On a night when Pro Bowler Mike Wallace was all thumbs, Brown proved worthy of every penny.
Brown sacrificed his 5-foot-9 frame running short crossing routes and brushed off Cincinnati defenders on clutch third-down situations.
Brown had one of his best performances hours after Houston hammered Baltimore to give the Steelers a chance to climb back into contention in the AFC North. The third-year receiver had seven catches for 96 yards.
More importantly, Brown's success forced the Bengals' linebackers to retreat from the line of scrimmage. The Bengals were coerced into keeping Brown from turning short passes into huge gains, thus creating gaping lanes for third-string running back Jonathan Dwyer (122 yards on 17 carries) to post the Steelers' first 100-yard rushing game this season.
“They played a lot of two-high safeties to take away the passing game, and when teams do that, we have to be able to run the ball,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “Also, the line was very physical and aggressive.
“The Bengals have a good front, and we had to be aggressive off the ball and open up holes. The backs ran really hard tonight, and it paid off.”
It helped, too, that Brown got the Bengals attention.
Brown, who refuses to relinquish punt return duties to rookie Chris Rainey, got plenty of help from tight end Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders. He made up for several drops — including four by Wallace and Baron Batch's drop of a certain scoring pass from Brown.
“The tape is the tape. He's (Wallace) got to catch the ball in a consistent manner,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “He didn't do it tonight. We'll get back to work, and hopefully he'll be better next week.”
Wallace hopes to rebound against the Washington Redskins on Sunday at Heinz Field. Brown, though, has played well enough to keep the heat off Wallace.
Roethlisberger didn't appear overly concerned about the dropped passes.
“I don't shy away from them even with drops,” Roethlisberger said. “I will always have confidence in them no matter what. These guys all hold themselves to a really high standard, and it just shows how valuable these guys are to our attack.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.