On a night in which there was little to take comfort for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was still one hallmark of consistency in the ever-present smile of Antonio Brown, the team’s only All-Pro player from a year ago.
As the starters on both sides of the ball continually struggled, there was Brown continually working, trying to put himself into position to make plays. Sometimes Ben Roethlisberger was able to get the ball to him, and when he did, the offense came alive.
Brown led all players on the night with 59 receiving yards on three receptions, and it could have easily been more.
On one occasion, Brown was tripped up by an Eagles linebacker trying to cover him as he broke toward the inside.
Two plays later, he sensed Roethlisberger in trouble as he ran a crossing route. He broke off the route and cut upfield to give his quarterback an outlet to throw to, but the quarterback’s ball was behind the receiver, and the defender was able to catch up with it and knock it down.
Later, in the third quarter, a wide receiver screen in which he cut back all the way to the other side of the field for a gain of about eight yards was called back on a holding call on Justin Brown.
And that was just what he was prevented from accomplishing. Two plays after the reception called back by penalty, Brown ran a wheel route on third and two and made the reception over his shoulder for 18 yards.
Roethlisberger looked for Brown down the seam on the next play and made the tough catch in traffic for 22 yards.
Earlier in the game, Brown came down with another short catch in traffic on third and four, bouncing off of tacklers for a 19-yard gain.
There may be a lot of question marks surrounding the 2014 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers, on both sides of the ball, but Antonio Brown is not one of them. On a sharper night from Roethlisberger, the two could have helped write a different script for the night’s show.
The Steelers will need Brown to be the player he was last year, and during this preseason, if they are going to find success this season, because as we’ve seen, this team struggles to move the ball when it’s not in his hands.