By Matthew Marczi
Although he was unable to hang on to a couple balls against the Detroit Lions, including one in the end zone, Antonio Brown still finished the day having had one of the best games of his career, with seven receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns. I think it’s worth taking a closer look at some of those receptions.
We might as well start at the beginning, with the Steelers facing a third and 11 situation just past midfield and in danger of once again stalling on their opening drive, as has been the case so often this year.
After motioning Le’Veon Bell out wide, the Steelers lined up five-wide in an 11 personnel. Brown lined up just outside Jerricho Cotchery, who at the snap of the ball moved out to block for Brown’s screen pass (you know, those plays that never ever work).
Cotchery sealed off the defensive back, and despite Heath Miller failing to pick up the linebacker, Brown still had enough wiggle to make the play happen. New set of downs, but they only needed one more on the drive:
The Steelers went five wide once again with the same personnel, though aligned differently. Bell this time was out wide on Brown’s side, but with Brown juking one tackler and making another miss, he really didn’t need any blocking help in order to finish the play jogging into the end zone. The Steelers’ second drive, of course, ended in similar fashion.
Once again, the Steelers went five-wide with the same personnel (notice how often Bell is out wide?). This time, Brown and Bell lined up on the left side of the offense. Bell looked to be open and was calling for the ball, but once he saw Ben Roethlisberger step up in the pocket and deliver the ball to Brown, he turned around to block. Thanks to Brown’s speed, and a downfield block by Emmanuel Sanders, he had another long touchdown to start the day.
Despite that, perhaps no single play in the game was bigger than his conversion on third and nine early in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers only went with three receivers, keeping in Jonathan Dwyer and Miller to pass block so close to the goal line. Despite Ndamukong Suh in his face, Roethlisberger saw Brown laying up in the soft spot of the zone and delivered a strike about 27-yards from where he stood. Credit Brown for not only going up to get the ball, but for hanging on while getting hit in the air. Clutch.