Steelers' Brown comes up big in Mega-matchup
All eyes were on Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson on a wet, windy Sunday at Heinz Field, but the Steelers' Antonio Brown stole the spotlight.
Brown tallied seven catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 37-27 victory.
“We've got a big-time wideout of our own,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Not a lot was written and said about him leading up to the game.”
Johnson amassed better numbers — all in the first half. He totaled six catches for 179 yards and two scores as Detroit overcame a sluggish start to lead 27-20 at halftime.
Brown's numbers weren't overwhelming in the second half. But the Lions were forced to alter their coverage schemes to contain Brown, and Jerricho Cotchery benefitted, hauling in three receptions, including a 20-yard touchdown with 2:29 left to keep alive the Steelers' faint playoff hopes.
“We knew they had a great offense, so we had to put up some points,” Cotchery said. “We felt as if we left some points out there.”
Brown isn't Johnson's equal, but he impacted the game in a big way. Johnson was impressed enough with Brown's performance that they exchanged jerseys afterward.
“That's the guy I've been looking up to since my freshman year in (Central) Michigan,” Brown said. “I've been a fan ever since, and what a great opportunity to watch him work. Having a chance to play football in Michigan, you hear a lot about Megatron.”
Brown exploited a defense that couldn't generate a pass rush to disrupt Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 29 of 45 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns.
Brown insisted afterward that it wasn't a battle between him and arguably the league's best receiver.
It just seemed that way at times.
Brown and Johnson combined for 13 catches, 326 yards and four touchdowns. Brown fired first with touchdown catches of 34 and 47 yards then watched Johnson counter with a 79-yard score.
“It was all about our teams,” said Brown, who will train with Johnson during the offseason. “Our teams did a good job, but we got the win. I'm always the same regardless who's on the other side of the field.”
For one of the few times this season, the Steelers weren't fighting from behind as they sprinted to a 14-0 lead.
“We got off to a fast start that put us in good position,” Brown said. “It was great not having to come from behind.
“Ben did a good job of stepping up in the pocket and allowing us more time to get into our routes.”
The Steelers entered the game focused on the tactics of Detroit's defensive front. Instead, the Lions' secondary sometimes played on the edge, particularly safety Louis Delmas, who kicked Brown.
“He always does something crazy when we play,” Brown said of his former high school teammate. “I'm thankful he didn't get a chance to tackle me.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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