Antonio Brown Likely To Open 2014 Season As Steelers Punt Returner

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.

  • RW

    Usually I’m with Tomlin, but brown is too valuavle

  • steeltown

    Im still surprised they didn’t give J.Brown much work in this area during preseason. I know the ultimate goal is to have Archer returning all kicks/punts but they could’ve given Justin Brown some return opportunities.

  • PA2AK

    I really hope that changes by kickoff. Not a good way to start the season with a very very very dumb coaching decision. don’t even need to go into the ‘why’…everyone on here knows…

  • 2443scott

    i wasnt surprised by this because they used a few back there catching punts…..i think its a mistake useing him again …but i think they also didnt want archer back there either because they will use him as rb/wr and he be a big part of the off…so maybe they figure he might get hurt returning and need him fresh also for the game ….but browns also a big part of the off ….so why not just have a reg punt returner on team if you can carry landry on the team why not a returner….

  • PA2AK

    agree…everyone (including me) gets preoccupied with the threat of the homerun hitter. why not let J.B. show what he can do. Might have a good average return with his experience.

  • pat

    I dont mind using Brown for now if you watch every time he has the ball he always avoids the big hits by getting down or out of bounds he knows his value to the team and knows risking an injury for an extra yard or two is not worth it

  • ApexSteel

    Pete Carroll put it best when he said “It’s just another football play”. I’m not worried about AB getting injured. That being said I’d rather have Dri do it just because I think he’ll be better at it.

  • fred thomas

    dumb is dumber every year!

  • Louis Goetz

    I agree with you. The drop off between the #1 and #2 WR is far greater than the drop off between the #1 and #2 PR. I’d much rather have AB’s 13.6 yards per catch than his 9.5 yards per punt return. I don’t care if Archer sits back there and fair catches every one.

  • JohnB

    exactly. he could get hurt on any play. he’s there to play, so play.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    brown can do it, as he is smart enough to fair catch most, thereby staying pretty safe, avoiding getting his head taken off. He only returns the ones where he has a little space. But, having said that, I’m all for having Archer in there doing the same thing, as a couple of you have mentioned. Teach him to be safe first, then when you return them, be safe there also. If you’re surrounded, just duck to the ground, or dive forward for a couple of yards, thus evading the big pop. That’s what Antonio does. One way or the other, there will be several occasions throughout the year to make big game changing plays. Just learn to be safe and not turn the ball over FIRST.

  • LucasY59

    If Tomlin “doesn’t live by his fears” then why is Landry Jones still on the team?

  • LucasY59

    the only fear I have is that Landry does play in a game that matters, its a scary thought

  • LucasY59

    not sure if Archer will be better than AB, Brown is a Proven pro bowl punt returner, Archer returned kickoffs well in college, but punts are somewhat of an unknown. I would like to find out if Archer can do the same thing with returning punts that he can do with kickoffs, I think its more a trust and decision making thing that is keeping him from being the #1 punt returner, I expect that to change during the season