Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is coming off his first season as the top target for his team, during which he broke the Steelers’ single season record for receiving yards and was named to the All-Pro team (second team) for the first time in his career.
Second-year wide receivers coach Richard Mann talked about many of his players recently, highlighting many of the young and new additions to the roster, so perhaps his comments on the longest-tenured member may have gotten overlooked.
In case you missed it, here is what the experienced position coach had to say about Brown’s offseason heading into his fifth year in the league:
“I think he’s done a lot of things really well. He doesn’t really look like the same guy. He’s made a transition. He’s very confident. He’s matured. He understands the concepts. He’s smoother. His body language is different. He’s just a different guy. He’s matured a lot”.
In retrospect, this may not be so surprising.
Brown entered the 2013 facing questions after a disappointing debut as a full-time starter due to injuries in 2012.
Add to that the fact that he had always had the advantage of playing alongside Mike Wallace, who required extra attention, and there were legitimate concerns about the former sixth-round pick being able to rise to the occasion.
He did that and more, of course, becoming the first player in the history of the league to register five catches or more with at least 50 receiving yards in every game of a regular season.
His 110 receptions, 1499 receiving yards, and eight receiving touchdowns were all career-highs and netted him his second trip to the Pro Bowl in four years.
Yet the 2013 began slowly, with reports of Brown souring on the sidelines about his lack of targets during the first two games. His exceptional nine-catch, 196-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week Three was a bit of a turning point, in that sense.
2014 presents much more stability for the 26-year-old wide receiver. Mann was in his first season with the team a year ago, and the two had much to learn about one another.
Mann is an old-school, technical, fundamental type of coach, which was a change from the previous position coach who piloted the ‘Young Money Crew’, of which only Brown remains.
Now cemented in his status as the top target, in the third year of an offense likely increasing adjusted with him in mind, in his second year with Mann, and coming off quite a confidence-boosting season, it’s no surprise to hear that Brown, who works as hard as anybody, is kicking it into another gear for this upcoming season.