Antonio Brown And Elite Wide Receivers

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been to the Pro Bowl two of the last three seasons. It may have been three straight seasons if he wasn’t forced to miss time because of an ankle injury in 2012.

Last year, he made the (second-team) All-Pro list for the first time after catching 110 passes for 1499 yards and eight touchdowns. He also did something that nobody had ever done before, catching at least five passes for at least fifty yards in every game of the season.

So why, then, is he listed one the second-year wide receivers? And is it accurate?

On the NFL website’s wide receiver rankings, the All-Pro class of wide receivers includes Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, and Josh Gordon.

The only name from that list that I would have much to argue with might be Gordon, and that would primarily be a case of sample size.

He only has one season of elite production under his belt, but that was an All-Pro year leading the league in receiving yards despite missing two games.

Gordon also caught nine touchdowns in those 14 games, and perhaps that might be where Brown falls slightly behind the absolute cream of the crop of the wide receiver position.

In truth, this modern era of the NFL may have its highest concentration of elite talent in the history of the game, though the rules aiding the passing game doesn’t hurt either.

In Jones’ first two seasons, for example, he caught 18 touchdowns. Bryant has 25 in the last two seasons. Thomas has 24, and Green has 22.

Johnson has at least 12 touchdowns in three of the past four seasons, and broke the single-season receiving yardage record in the other season.

Antonio Brown only has 15 touchdowns for his career, though more than half of them came last season, so perhaps he can cement himself into the All-Pro discussion next year.

Notice what all of those other receivers have in common, of course: they’re all exceptionally tall for their position.

Only Bryant, at a mere 6’2”, falls below the 6’3” mark. Brown is at least five inches shorter than most of them, which no doubt plays a role in the touchdown figures.

While Brown has made a couple of spectacular touchdown catches, just watch some of the passes that the quarterbacks heave up to their colossal targets over helpless cornerbacks who have no chance to reach the precipice of the pass.

Of course, that doesn’t prevent Brown from either being a prolific scorer nor an elite wide receiver. After all, he made the All-Pro team last season, and is coming off his best year as a producer in the end zone.

And I half suspect there will be a vocal contingent of readers in the comment section arguing that Brown deserves to be in that top rank. I don’t know that I disagree.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Luke Shabro

    I feel torn on this. I love AB and I think his game is pretty amazing. He’s also incredibly durable considering his size. However, I think I’m fairly biased towards touchdown production however foolish. Even 8 TDs is good but not enough to me to be considered elite. At the same time, his ability to get open, the way he attacks the ball and the chunks of yardage he gets make me want to say he’s a top 10 receiver. Tricky argument

  • ApexSteel

    I can’t say I disagree, but there would be more controversy if AB was over 6 feet. Nowadays being tall is an elite skill set.

  • Kurt Williams

    Those 5 that are mentioned have dominated multiple games during a season at some point. It’s really tough for a 5-10 wideout to dominate games and catch a bunch of TD’s but AB is as talented as they come for his size and is very consistent. (5 catches for at least 50 yds in all 16 games).

  • RW

    He’s a great player, probably elite. But like you said, a lack of TDs prevent him from being on the list.

  • Steelers12328882

    The only way I would choose AB over that list of WRs is if I needed a PR too. In that case his overall talent is better than any of them, but purely as a WR he’s definitely 2nd tier to that group. If he has another season or 2 like he had last year and increases his TD receptions than I’d change my mind.

  • dgh57

    I’m not worried about Antonio Brown because if you asked him he would probably tell us he has room to improve his game(including more TDs)as he’s still in his prime years. It can get better moving forward for AB as I’m optimistic about our improved running game/OL and if a WR opposite AB shows up!

  • Jacque Strappe

    I really don’t care how they want to pigeon hole him, I hope he has another season up to par with the last one. The media can portray it however they want.

  • Steelers12328882

    Anyone see the pic AB posted yesterday of himself eating a Mango that’s framed around his Bentley steering wheel while doing 39mph down the road?

  • srdan

    Matthew, I believe that you forgot to list Dez on there.

    Anyway, I am not that high on AJ green. Maybe its his QB, but I dont see him as elite as the other names on the list.

  • Lil Smitty

    For AB to be considered elite by anyone outside of Steeler Nation, he will need to have a couple more games like did against Detroit last year. He will never be a TD threat when the line of Scrimmage is inside the 10, but he will to get his TDs with YAC
    As much talk about AJ Green and Megatron being so elite, I have seen them drop passes in critical situations too often. It seems like when they do catch a TD it ends up on ESPN.

  • westcoasteeler

    Yeah. He better have a clause in his contract, Like Bens, that says when he instagrams no-hand driving and eating in his Bently, he has to do it w a helmet on.

  • steeltown

    That’s cool… im pretty sure none of the names mentioned have their jerseys in Canton, Ohio for being the first player in NFL history to eclipse 1,000yds receiving and returning in a single season.. oh and set another record last season (atleast 5rec 50yds per game) which also had never been done before.

    I’ll keep my AB

  • cencalsteeler

    Nicely said.

  • srdan

    Agreed. I wish there was a way to measure drive and effort put into his craft. I would put my money on ab over anyone else. Players like that end up being the best. Athleticism fizzles, ethic doesn’t.

  • cencalsteeler

    AB’s only knock, is his height takes him out of red zone contention. Between the 20’s, he’s as good as they get. Couple that with his punt returns, he’s an amazing player. Media is more glamour based, so he loses brownie points with them in the TD category. But, most of know how important he is to our organization and that his star shines brightly here in the Burgh.

  • charles

    YAC is where its at. Just get him the ball.

  • Lil Smitty

    Are you channeling Keyshawn Johnson?

  • Code Warrior

    We never seem to have the prototypical elite player. Ben is elite but not in the prototypical QB way. Health is elite but not in the prototypical way elite TEs are measured. The same could be said of Troy or of The Bus and Hines in their day. I think AB is one great season away from being included in the discussion of the atypical elite.

  • Paul Barracliffe

    He’s elite and a great receiver. I believe he will continue to produce but I feel like he never should
    showboat and always behave on the field like the champion the steelers are

  • Looking at TD receptions and the height advantage, it’s easy to see why Brown might get overlooked. It doesn’t bother me at all. I like AB’s work ethic and hopefully hearing stuff like this pushes him even more. He’s a driven individual, so this gives him something more to work towards.

  • IckyD

    We should let them celebrate a little imho..

  • IckyD

    Jerry Rice was an atypical elite too…not that AB is in anywhere near THAT class yet….

  • IckyD

    And we wondered if we did right by letting Wallace go…lol.

    Tannehill ain’t Big Ben by any measure…

  • IckyD

    If Megatron was TRULY the game-changer he could be DET would’ve won a playoff game or two by now wouldn’t they?

    Or is the Lions coaching staff and QB putting too much on one guy of 11?

  • IckyD

    Derrick Moye is a hard worker, smart, 6’6″/225/4.47 and has very long arms w/big hands and he can catch the high balls. And he is tough- old-school tough.

    I don’t understand why he [and Arnfelt] are being overlooked.

  • IckyD

    A solid point.

    But hard to admit…

  • IckyD

    If he gets double-digit TDs every year he makes that list, closer to the top than bottom.

    Especially if he pairs it w/1000+ yards and 100+ catches.

    Any return work is just a bonus, but if he gets into that category he won’t be returning much…

  • walter mason

    Moye is being given a fair shot to make the team again but he had his chance last year and just didnt show anything when games counted.

  • dgh57

    I think Moye will be in a camp battle with DHB and Justin Brown for the 5th WR spot. We’ll see how it goes but I have Brown winning out. I really don’t see Arnfelt as being overlooked.

  • steeltown

    I believe Moye is around 210lbs, which was a concern coming out of college being that he has a somewhat slight build for his height and he has small hands for his size as well, believe it or not I think he has the smallest hands in the WR room, even Archer has larger hands. But, I don’t care much for measurables these days with a guy like AB proving all the naysayers wrong. In the case of Moye he really will need to show more on special teams,

  • steeltown

    That’s fine with me though, how many playoff games (or Championships) have the Teams containing players like C.Johnson, AJ Green, Adrian Peterson, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant etc etc won since their inclusion…

  • steeltown


  • lol, nice

  • His QB doesn’t help him much, but I have to disagree with your take on A.J. Green. As much as it pains me to say it, he’s a beast of a receiver.

  • Steelers12328882