Antonio Brown thriving as Pittsburgh's main option
College Contributor Network
Through four weeks of the NFL season, the 195th overall selection in the 2010 draft has been the best wide receiver in football.
Antonio Brown, taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 6th round out of Central Michigan, had an outrageous campaign last season as the Steelers' undisputed go-to guy after Mike Wallace departed to Miami. Brown set a franchise record with 1,499 receiving yards and became only the second Steeler to record 100 receptions in a season. Not bad for someone who was the 22nd wide receiver taken in his draft class.
It's not even October yet and Brown is setting more records, and this time it's a league record. It's amazing that Brown can consistently achieve this kind of production when opposing defenses know that he's basically the only legitimate receiving threat Pittsburgh has.
|Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown and Lance Moore combined||48||495||1|
The biggest help Brown gets in the passing game is that the Steelers are strong at running the football. Alongside LeGarrette Blount, Le'Veon Bell is a possible star-in-the-making and the duo averaging over five yards per rush this season is taking a lot of pressure off of the receivers.
Brown currently sits with the third-most receiving yards in the league and is tied for the most touchdown grabs. He has more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Calvin Johnson.
He has turned out to be a bargain after the Steelers rewarded the promising receiver and kick returner with a five-year, $42.5 million extension prior to the 2012 season. That money could have gone to Wallace, who was the team's leading receiver in 2011 and still only 25-years-old. Instead, Pittsburgh let Wallace walk after the season, which allowed Brown to flourish as the No. 1 option.
Brown doesn't get his yards by overpowering defensive backs and jumping over them, à la Johnson or Julio Jones. At just 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, he won't be beating anyone like that. Instead, he possesses an insane combination of speed, quickness, smart route-running and sure hands that makes him nearly impossible to cover.
He put all of those attributes on display in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns with his 35-yard touchdown grab that was as much vintage Ben Roethlisberger as it was Brown knowing exactly where he needed to be.
Brown didn't beat any garden-variety corner to make that play either. That was Joe Haden, a Pro Bowler in 2013 and fresh off of signing a five-year, $68 million extension. The wideout finished the game with over 100 receiving yards to go along with his highlight touchdown reception.
In Week 2, Brown had his worst numbers so far this season in a 26-6 loss in Baltimore. He had seven catches for 90 yards -- hardly a stinker for most other receivers in the league.
Something tells me that Brown quickly forgot about that game. In the two fixtures since then, including a date with the Panthers in Carolina, Brown has amassed 17 catches for 221 yards and four touchdowns.
Roethlisberger, and his favorite receiver, will have plenty more chances to keep the hot streak going and make their fantasy owners happy. All of Pittsburgh's next four games include teams that rank in the bottom half of the league in giving up receiving yards. One of those teams is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who just allowed two different Chargers receivers to post over 100 receiving yards in Week 4.
The Steelers are 2-2 and already trailing the Bengals and Ravens in the division. If Pittsburgh is going to start rattling off wins, it will be because of a healthy dose of Antonio Brown dancing in the end zone.
Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo