By Matthew Marczi
A week after allegedly approaching his offensive coordinator with some grievances over how he was being utilized within the offense during the first two game, wide receiver Antonio Brown had the best statistical game of his career, totaling nearly 200 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns.
All three were career highs for the fourth-year receiver, including his first career multiple-score game. He finished last season strong as well, scoring in each of the team’s last four games. It is also worth pointing out that the degree of difficulty of both touchdown receptions was quite high and took a great deal of skill.
Through the first three games, Brown now has 20 total receptions for 324 yards and a yards per catch average of 16.2 to go along with the two scores.
Of course, it is worth keeping in perspective the fact that much of these statistics were compiled in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss this past week to the Chicago Bears, which very much had the beginnings of a blowout, and certainly finished as such, as turnovers derailed any comeback attempt.
Still, we are beginning to see the signs from Brown that we have been waiting for, the signs that point to his ability to fulfill his newfound role as the top receiver now that Mike Wallace is in Miami.
During his four-year tenure, the points production through the air was primarily driven through him. Even last season, Wallace finished the year with eight touchdowns. But he rarely caught any with the degree of difficulty displayed on Brown’s two touchdown catches, the second of which made many of the media highlight reels the day after.
Brown’s willingness to battle for the tough balls is something that the Steelers often lacked from their top dog during Wallace’s tenure. And this season especially appears to be one in which the Steelers are going to need to be able to come up with some of those contested balls in order to make something of the year.
Brown, of course, still has several years left on his contract with the Steelers, but with Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery hitting free agency after this season, it is very important for the team to be able to find out this year if Brown can truly be their number one receiver.
Make no mistake: Brown may have done more than scratch the surface of his talent, but he is still a young player with room to grow, both as a person and as an athlete.
The decision could certainly impact their draft strategy for next season, especially if they don’t feel comfortable anointing Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye, or Justin Brown a starter. Wide receiver was considered a potential first round target this past draft, and that is likely to be the case next year as well.