Steelers' Brown continues to prove worth as team's top wide receiver
Antonio Brown was the Steelers' No. 2 receiver last season. Now, he's No. 1 in the NFL.
Brown, a player ascending on a team that's been descending, doesn't lead the league in catches, yards, yards per catch, touchdowns or yards per game.
Put all of his numbers together — 41 catches on 53 targets, 498 yards, averages of 12.1 per catch and 99.6 per game — and he easily leads Pro Football Focus' wide receiver efficiency rankings. His overall ranking of 13.5 is well ahead of Chicago's Brandon Marshall (11.5).
Brown is surpassing all of his previous three seasons as well as the numbers being put up by his predecessor Mike Wallace, who signed a $60 million deal with Miami but is the NFL's third-to-last ranked receiver at No. 104. Wallace has 22 catches for 281 yards and a touchdown.
“He's our No. 1 guy,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Thursday. “When Mike left, he knew he had an opportunity to step into that role. He's embraced it, he's worked hard and he's making plays. That's tough to do when you're ‘the' guy because that's the guy that generally sees double coverage.”
Teammates say Brown isn't taking any downs off, is running his routes with greater precision than before and staying on the same page with Ben Roethlisberger, who — thanks in part to Brown — has thrown for 1,053 yards in his past three games.
“Whatever he calls, I'm going to do the best job of running it, whether it's long or short, give every detail on that route and, hopefully, that can get me downfield,” said Brown.
At his current pace, Brown not only would easily surpass his previous career highs of 69 catches for 1,108 yards in 2011, he would fly past Hines Ward's team record of 112 catches in a season.
“Right now, me and Ben are on the same page, and the receivers as a whole are doing a good job of working together,” Brown said. “I'm doing a good job of preparing every week and being assignment-sound and being in areas Ben wants me to be in.”
Brown had 66 catches for 787 yards and five touchdowns last season when he missed three games and was bothered for the second half of the season by an ankle injury.
That's why, when asked what has transformed Brown from a good receiver into an elite one, teammate Jerricho Cotchery said, “Nothing.”
“Last year, I feel like he was on the same pace early on in the year to have 100 catches, but he went down with an ankle injury that he battled through the entire year,” Cotchery said, pointing to Brown's 36 catches in his first five games in 2012. “I feel like there would have been a lot more consistency in the offense if he were healthy last year, but he wasn't. At this point he's healthy, and we're reaping the benefits of it.”
Brown apparently went to Haley and asked for a greater role in the offense after he had six catches for 57 yards during a 20-10 loss in Cincinnati on Sept. 16, though both deny there was any confrontation. The following week, Brown made nine catches for 196 yards against the Bears.
“He's lightning fast, lightning quick, (has) quick hands, very good hands and (is) very good after the catch,” Haley said. “You can throw him a short one, and he can run long.”
And take it all the way to No. 1 in the league.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Opposing defenses find success against Steelers by eschewing blitz
- Steelers looking for Spence to step up game at inside linebacker
- Snapshot in time: Comparing Cowher, Tomlin drafts
- Play of the week: Texans find success with zone stretch running attack
- Texans coach O’Brien still cherishes time at Penn State
- Steelers notebook: Shazier limited in practice
- Robinson: Big Ben on pace to break Favre’s record — for sacks
- Steelers notebook: Gay endorses domestic violence app
- Steelers rookie Tuitt prepares for big role
- Steelers rookie wideout Bryant eager to show off talent
- Steelers’ Haley unfazed by criticism