By Jeremy Hritz
Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress recently had some interesting comments about fourth-year receiver Antonio Brown. He said, “[Brown] is going to be one of the most feared receivers in the league this year.”
Mr. Burress, we hope you are right.
Being without their number one receiver from the past two seasons, the Steelers would love nothing more than for Brown to make up for the production that will be lost from the departed Mike Wallace. And during his short time in Pittsburgh, he has shown that he can make big plays.
The 5’10, 186 pound Brown enters the 2013 season carrying the expectation of being the Steelers featured receiver. At 24 years young, Brown has been productive in his first three seasons, though injuries and dropped passes disrupted his season in 2012. What also has to be acknowledge from this past season was his penchant for fumbling, none more costly than his fumble on a punt return in the fourth quarter against Dallas when the Steelers were on their way to securing a victory. While his yardage and catches declined last season, his touchdown receptions increased, and there is no doubt that anything less than a 1000-yard season this year would be a disappointment.
Brown clearly understands his new expectations, and he is approaching his preparations in a workmanlike fashion, already donning game pants in OTAs apparently to replicate game conditions. While a minor effort, it still demonstrates close attention to detail, and this type of conscientiousness is essential to being a team leader. The question is, will these efforts result in increased receptions and yardage?
If Brown is going to be one of the leaders of the Steelers offense, he will need to be more mindful of his comments off of the field. This offseason he was vocal about the “awkwardness” in the locker room as a result of Wallace’s contract dispute and the Emmanuel Sanders situation when he said , “I don’t think that they (the Steelers) really like guys that don’t do things their own way.” While Wallace is gone, Sanders is still around, and it is uncertain how such a comment has impacted the relationship between the two receivers.
As the Steelers attempt to move beyond the pedestrian 8-8 win/loss record of 2012, Brown has to make sure that his focus is completely on what is in front of him, and not on the issues from a year ago, or even from the early offseason.
Recently, during the first week of OTAs, Brown said, “I have to set the tempo and set the standard around. That’s what I am ready to do. I understand the tradition and how things need to be done.”
Steelers Nation will measure Brown’s “understanding” by his catches, touchdowns, and splash plays, and if he is truly the Steelers new number one, he will need to make many of these.