Antonio Brown – Security Blanket

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…

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • steeltown

    If only we had an offensive tackle or two

    A.Brown has been great, he’s been a bright spot on an otherwise cloudy season. Whats crazy is he’s doing all this with no help on the other side. Im pretty sure not many Defenses fear Emmanuel Sanders at this point. Le’Veon also has me excited for the future, but this game is won in the trenches and we need to fortify that area before we can expect any consistency

  • treeher

    Sanders is a child and plays like one.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Sanders need to play smarter but his play hasn’t been awful. Not sure why everyone is killing this guy.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    His production (Brown) will come to a screeching halt once defenses roll coverage or double him especially on passing downs. This team has no legitimate threat of a #2 WR more of reason to keep Heath going in the passing game as well as W. Johnson. I see Wheaton being the #2 across from Brown if given the vote of confidence from the coaches and allowed to contribute more. Seems to have more potential than Sanders…time to take the training wheels off.

  • JohnnyV1

    Agree that Antonio Brown is playing up to his pay grade, and maybe above given what some other wideouts “earn”. Now if only the team’s other top earners could match his effort-to-skill ratio, we’d have a few wins by now.

  • steeltown

    I think he will… but probably not till next season

  • “If only we had an offensive tackle or two”

    Apparently, that’s in the works…

  • steeltown


  • Bob Loblaw

    Yeah, his first two games were a lot better than Brown’s.

  • gevins

    I wish we would have let Emmanuel Sanders go to the patriots. Huge disappointment.