Antonio Brown Hoping To Focus On Offense This Season

From the sounds of it, Antonio Brown may have been the biggest cheerleader for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most recent third-round draft selection, Dri Archer.

Archer, a 5’8” running back slash wide receiver, is also a skilled return man, having returned four kickoffs for touchdowns over his last two college seasons.

While he didn’t return many punts last year, he was set to before suffering an ankle injury, which prompted the coaches to decide to pull him out of that job in an effort to save him some wear and tear throughout the course of the season.

That’s what Brown is hoping that Archer will do for him this year.

Despite emerging as a record-setting wide receiver, the Steelers still had Brown fielding punts last year, simply because they didn’t have anybody else so skilled at the job, exposing one of their most significant commodities on either side of the ball to added risk.

He returned 32 punts for a nearly 13-yard average last season, including one touchdown, the third return touchdown of his career.

But as Mike Prisuta notes, he also fair caught 23 others, and there were “other numerous instances in which Brown watched the ball bounce and roll”.

Prisuta interprets that this “betrayed his obvious distaste for having to subject himself to punishment while doing something other than setting receiving records”.

During OTAs this week, Brown was asked who would be returning punts this season. He said, “that’s always a good question”, and advised that it be directed to head coach Mike Tomlin.

That doesn’t mean he’s not willing to do it, however. “I’m always willing to do whatever I gotta do to help the team”, he said. “I’ll let coach decide. If that’s a position I gotta do, that’s what I have to do”.

With Archer first out sick and then slated to attend a rookie event  this week, he hasn’t been there during OTAs to field punts. That meant that Brown was back out there himself.

Also back fielding punts were contingency plans Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Kashif Moore, and Danny Coale.

After losing both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery following a season during which Brown set an NFL record by catching at least five passes for at least 50 yards in every game, the Steelers understand more than ever just how valuable a commodity he is at wide receiver.

Accordingly, they seem more set than ever on taking him out of his return responsibilities entering his fifth season, but Brown is still skeptical. According to him, “they say that every year, man, and I’m back there”, adding, “we’ll see”.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steelers12328882

    I know there’s risk of injury, but there is on any given play and at any position. It drove me crazy watching him fair catch all those balls last year, especially because he’s such a good open field runner. If he’s gonna be a diva the Steelers should just suck it up and put someone else back there other than Archer of course.

  • Steel PAul

    Why “other than Archer of course”?

  • Jeff

    What makes you think he’s going to be a “diva”?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    You and Prisuta have it all wrong. I, on the other hand, am thankful that AB fair catches often. Any questionable punts should have him doing the prudent thing. When he has room, he returns it and even got a TD last year. I certainly do NOT want AB taking a risk on a punt where he might get his head handed to him and be injured and out for the year. Risk-Reward, man! He is way to valuable to the team.

    Please note that when AB catches the ball and turns to see 3 or 4 defenders bearing down, and he sees no way out, he often falls forward for a few yards, thus doing the right thing so that none of them can get more than a piece of him. Do you understand that when he does this he is actually doing what’s best for the team? He is saving himself from being injured and I am all for it. Also note that when he does have just a little room, he is incredible and will take advantage. Just look at some of those screens or short passes where he makes guys miss and takes it to the house. He is obviously one of the most successful WR’s with this talent in the game today.

    This is why I have always wanted someone who is a capable backup that would take the PR and KR duties on. Now, Archer better be spending tons of time on fielding punts, because if he can do both, he will be very valuable to the team. Also, AB better make sure that he teaches the kid that when he has room he should go crazy, looking for the big play. But that he should be smart when there’s a sea of defenders looking to separate his head form his body. That’s just being smart.

  • cencalsteeler

    I have to disagree with Prisuta’s comments. I doubt Antonio would line up for a punt return and worry about injury. He’s back there hoping to take the punt to the house and putting six on the board. I was a pr/kr in college, and there was nothing more exciting than knowing the ball was coming to you and for one that one play, you had a chance to take it all the way. AB worrying about injury,… bah hum bug…… returning kicks is as exciting as returning an interception except you know your getting the ball. All eyes are on you and after all, that’s what playmakers want.

  • Steelers12328882

    What WR isn’t a diva, besides Hines Ward?

  • Steelers12328882

    I mean because Archer’s not at practice, so AB is probably back there catching them at practice again.

  • Steelers12328882

    Gotta disagree. I’ve seen him fair catch when there was room for a 10 yard gain. I favored him as the PR last year when most fans wanted to save him from a possible injury, cause I know he’s a pro bowl returner, but the fact is he doesn’t want to do it, and you gotta find someone else in that case. Fortunately we spent a 3rd rd pick on a player that can be our returner.

  • Jeff

    There’s tons of them actually… Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald… 3 examples of elite receivers that aren’t divas… I’ll add AB to that list too…

  • Steelers12328882

    Look, I love AB, and I don’t mean diva in such a negative way, but to me every WR is a diva and AB is no exception. I mean he’s great at what he does, and he knows it. He’s a classy, stylish guy. You never seen him yelling at Haley cause he isn’t getting the ball enough? Or doing the ball drop after every first down? Or running backwards into the end zone?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I am fine with saving him throughout the season and then if you truly need a big play in a big game, then throw him out there. It works sometimes. In the end, we actually agree that the job should definitely go to others. Archer first. And there should be others ready just in case.

  • Steelers12328882

    Yeah for sure. If it’s to win the game and Archer or anyone else is not getting it done, then there’s no one else I’d want back there. Just like that Miami game last year.

  • 2443scott

    having some one else back there would help brown stay fresher once he returned kick he be right there in huddle no time to get a breather …plus with returning kicks say he did 10 times in game thats 10 times some guy on other team has a shot to take out brown ….so if some one else does it that 10 hits are removed and any one could be a season ender…