While he didn’t get an opportunity to return punts during the preseason, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown looks poised to open up the 2014 regular season at home against the Cleveland Browns as the primary punt returner once again.
According to the Steelers Week 1 depth chart that was released Monday, Brown is listed as the starting punt returner with rookie running back Dri Archer listed as the backup and that’s not too surprising based on what happened during the preseason.
Archer was given every opportunity to win the punt return job during the preseason but his five fair catches combined with his four returns for six yards with a long of five certainly won’t cut it during the regular season.
During his first four seasons in the league, Brown has returned 108 regular season punts for a 9.5 yard average. He also has two touchdowns and a long of 67 yards.
With it looking like it will be a while until Archer is ready to supplant Brown on punt returns, the Central Michigan product has an opportunity to move up in the Steelers record books in the meantime. He enters the 2014 season needing 186 punt return yards to into fourth place in team history (Louis Lipps, 1,212) and 233 to surpass Theo Bell (1,259) for third place all-time.
The downside to having Brown return punts is fact that it opens him up to taking a few extra hard hits, but head coach Mike Tomlin has never been one to live in his fears when it comes to players potentially getting injured.
Fears or no fears, the Steelers simply don’t have anyone on their current roster that can handle the punt return job as effectively as Brown can until Archer can prove otherwise.