By Matthew Marczi
Antonio Brown is in his first season as the top receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and so far, he is making the most of it, putting up some very impressive numbers.
Take, for example, Ben Roethlisberger’s completion percentage when targeting Brown thus far this season. Roethlisberger has thrown the ball in Brown’s direction 39 times so far this season—just a fraction below 10 times a game. Brown has caught 32 of those without a single drop.
That works out to a completion percentage of 82.1, which ranks third league-wide through the first quarter of the season, behind only Keenan Allen and Nate Burleson. Neither, however, have been targeted 25 times or more, and neither has reached 20 receptions.
Brown is also currently fourth in the league with his 32 receptions, trailing Julian Edelman and Andre Johnson—both with 34—and Julio Jones with 33. 21 of those receptions have come in the past two weeks on 24 targets, for a completion percentage of 87.5. Not to mention Roethlisberger and Brown hooked up on all of their 12 targets this past week.
Yes, Antonio Brown is becoming quite the reliable target for his franchise quarterback, and the value of such a reliable release valve cannot be understated. Mike Wallace was never that reliable, consistent bail-out option. Santonio Holmes was. Hines Ward was. And now, so is Brown.
Antonio Brown’s ‘wide receiver rating’ (the quarterback’s rating when throwing to that receiver) is 127.8. By way of comparison, Jerricho Cotchery’s wide receiver rating is 86.8, and Emmanuel Sanders’s is 39.4. In fact, Brown’s wide receiver ranking is good for fifth-best league-wide.
Of course, he is also on pace for over 1600 yards through the first quarter of the season.
Antonio Brown had shown early on in his career that he could be a security blanket for his quarterback, even in his rookie season when he played only sparingly. He really rounded into form in his sophomore year when he had over 1000 yards despite technically starting just three games.
But he is now displaying that same consistent reliability as the top target, with all of the attention and coverage that goes along with it, which is something that the Steelers had yet to see from him.
Pro Football Focus, in fact, has given Antonio Brown the highest overall rating through four games in the entire league—and by a significant margin. The site gives Brown a rating of 9.7; Nate Washington is second in the league at 7.5. Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, and Jordy Nelson are tied for third at 7.0. Now, if only those numbers could start translating into victories…