By Matthew Marczi
End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Antonio Brown
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 4 Years
The 2013 season was the first in Antonio Brown’s career in which he was asked to be the top receiving threat for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers after Mike Wallace chased the big contract in free agency. There were a lot of questions surrounding him in the offseason, and he spent much of the year answering them.
The miniscule receiver set career-, franchise-, and league-best numbers in 2013 en route to his second Pro Bowl trip and a nomination to the second-team All-Pro team behind Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon.
Brown became the first player in NFL history to catch at least five passes in every game of the regular season in addition to gaining at least 50 receiving yards. To think that nobody in the history of the league had done that before, and that Brown was the first to do so, is pretty remarkable. It is the embodiment of consistency.
More locally, Brown’s 1499 receiving yards easily surpassed the previous franchise record set by Yancey Thigpen in 1997, topping the previous 1398-yard mark by more than 100 yards. Brown also became only the second player in franchise history with triple-digit receptions in a season, falling just two shy of matching Hines Ward’s record 112 receptions.
Perhaps most importantly, he showed that he could replicate Wallace where it mattered most—in the end zone. Brown had a career-best eight touchdowns in 2013 after having just seven total in his previous three years. That, personally, was my biggest concern about him as the top target entering this season.
Brown put up some monster individual games stats throughout the year, three times exceeding 130 receiving yards. In Week Three, he came four yards shy of reaching 200 yards. He also twice scored multiple touchdowns in a game.
In one three-week span, he recorded 30 receptions. He had at least nine receptions in a game five times. And despite the high volume of use, he still averaged 13.6 yards per reception. Part of that is due to the fact that Brown forced 16 missed tackles on the year and accumulated 657 yards after the catch, or 6 yards per reception.
Toward the end of the season, Brown began to display some focus issues, dropping a pass in each of the last five games. Still, eight drops for the season on 159 targets is not bad at all, and he finished 15th in the league in the drop rate category among receivers with at least 50 percent of the team’s snaps played.
Roethlisberger had a completion percentage of nearly 70 when targeting Brown in 2013, while Brown’s 2.37 yards per route run ranked fifth in the league. He had a spectacular season, all things considered, and I expect him to continue to be among the best in the league in 2014.
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Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – QB Ben Roethlisberger