By Jeremy Hritz
The Pittsburgh Steelers may only be 1-4 and still a long ways away from being considered a playoff team, but one thing is for certain: their passing game, despite the constant pounding taken by Ben Roethlisberger, is steadily heating up.
With that in mind and considering the performance thus far of Antonio Brown, the decision to let Mike Wallace skedaddle to Miami seems like a very intelligent one.
Well played, Kevin Colbert.
Sure, Brown doesn’t create the defensive anxiety like Wallace does, but his ability to make critical catches and to produce after the catch has been excellent in 2013.
Last season, after five games as the Steelers primary receiver, Wallace caught 21 balls for 345 yards and four touchdowns, with a 16.4 yard average per reception. During that five game stretch, the Steelers were 2-3.
In comparison, this season, Brown has caught 41 passes for 498 yards, two touchdowns, with an average of 12.1 yards per catch, which is 1.2 yards below his career average.
If you are counting, Brown has caught 20 more passes for 153 more yards this year through five games than Wallace did one year ago.
But yeah, there’s that win/loss record thing.
Could it be that Brown truly is a better number one in Pittsburgh than Wallace was during his tenure?
Brown is definitely not immune to criticism, and you don’t have to look any further than his dropped touchdown pass on a back shoulder throw from Roethlisberger against the Jets. In fact, that play, a dropped touchdown, is somewhat characteristic of Brown’s career, as he doesn’t seem to have a penchant for the end zone. In his four years as a receiver with the Steelers, he has never caught for more than five touchdowns in a season, and only nine total in his career. In order to elevate his game another notch, he must get in the end zone and make the catches like the one he dropped this past Sunday.
Despite his TD deficiencies, Brown is making Wallace easily forgettable. And if he continues on his torrid pace, he will end the season with 131 catches for 1593 yards, which should assuredly be enough to earn him a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Even more importantly, if the Steelers are to actualize their seemingly far-fetched hopes for a playoff berth, Brown is going to have to continue at that pace and score more touchdowns in the process.
The Dolphins were off in week six, and you have to wonder if Wallace watched his former team, and his replacement, get their first win of the season.
This much is for sure, in the competition for who has the better season receiving between Brown and Wallace, AB clearly has the upper hand. Wallace, at this juncture, has only caught 22 balls for 281 yards and one touchdown.
On December 8th, the two receivers will get to share the stage at Heinz Field, and undoubtedly both will be motivated to put on a fireworks display.
I’ll be betting on Brown to light it up.