Rest In W17 Would Leave Antonio Brown Tantalizingly Short Of Another Yardage Record

The Pittsburgh Steelers took care of business on Sunday by knocking off the Ravens and in doing so locking up not just the AFC North, but also the third seed in the AFC, with the inability to improve or hurt their standing in the final game of the season.

That is a minor misfortune, potentially, for wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is just a few yards shy of establishing another longevity record in addition to extending his record for the most receptions in a four-season span. Based on my layman’s research, he is fewer than 10 yards behind Marvin Harrison for the most receiving yards in a four-season span as well.

You might recall that it was Harrison whose other record Brown broke earlier this season, a couple of games ago, for the most receptions in a four-season span. The former Colts wide receiver caught 469 passes between the 1999 and 2002 seasons. Brown currently has 481 receptions with one game left in the 2016 season.

Of course, the rub here is that, with the Steelers locked into their playoff position, there is an overwhelmingly likely chance that many of their key players will not even see the field in the regular season finale against the Browns. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger already immediately expressed his hopes that many will be able to rest prior to the start of the postseason.

Assuming that that is indeed the case, and players such as Roethlisberger and Brown sit this one out, that will leave the All-Pro wide receiver tantalizingly close to passing Harrison’s yardage mark for that same four-season span, during which he gained, from what I can find, the most yardage in such a span in NFL history through the air with 6322 yards.

Since the 2013 season, Brown has caught, as mentioned, 481 passes, and he picked up 6315 yards through the air. He would need just seven yards to tie Harrison’s yardage mark, and eight to surpass it, for what I believe to be the most in NFL history.

At over 6300 yards, Brown has averaged nearly 1580 receiving yards per season during this streak. It should go without saying, in explaining my research methodology, that any player who has failed to record at least that many yards in a single season would be immediately eliminated from the hunt.

Jerry Rice would be an obvious candidate, the leader in career receiving yardage, and the man who owned the most yards in a single season in NFL history for a long while. He actually had five seasons of at least 1499 yards, three of which came in consecutive seasons, but the fourth season he had 1254. His best four-year total was 6104.

As for Calvin Johnson, his best in a four-year period was 6257. Torrey Holt had 5996 yards. Others, such as Isaac Bruce, Andre Johnson, and Julio Jones, had superb streaks broken up by injury-ridden years. Brown’s string of health is obviously a key element in his success.

About the Author

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

    Give him an odd screen like Hines in the 2011 finale and then he sits 🙂

  • BradleyT

    If he really wants that record let him play a series of “safe” throws then sit him. He deserves it especially after “the extension”

  • Kelly Walker

    Let the starters play the first 3 series or even the first half, but don’t go to Bell and Brown too much. I don’t want any injuries, but I Have Seen TEAMS Rest Players And then Look Out Of synch IN The playoffs.

  • Michael James

    I’m ok with Brown playing a couple of snaps, but for God’s sake, don’t play Ben or Bell. The out-of-synch talk is not really a valid argument imho. If they secured the #2 seed, they would have a bye week anyway. Now the Browns are a de-facto bye week.

  • The Browns aren’t a bunch of thugs with the intent to injure like other teams in this division. I would like to see the starters play the first quarter at the very least.

    Also with a 45 man game day active roster you can’t take out all the starters. Most will play their usual snaps.

  • Applebite

    All they have to do is play the 1st half. They don’t have to sit out the entire game, just sit them out the 2nd half, they can still remain in-sync and everything else. It’s not as if as soon as they touch the field, the entire starting unit will begin to twist their ankles and break femur bones, etc..

  • pittfan

    I’m with you guys. Have them go thru all the game prep just like the usual and get in some reps. I’d like to see Ben and LG, Eli, Cobi, get some work in together. If someone is banged up, let them heal.

  • Steve Bozell

    And yet Deangelo Williams was injured in the season finale vs. the Browns last year. The Colts aren’t thugs, but Derek Carr is out for the playoffs. The Jags aren’t thugs, yet Marcus Mariotta is lost for the season.

    It’s football – the Steelers have earned this mini bye week, it would be unwise not to take advantage of it.

    Is anyone suggesting the top two seeds scrimmage on their bye week to “stay sharp”?

    Stop it.

  • Axe Skot

    Repeat after me: records are the concerns of players on losing teams.

  • Steve Bozell

    Ben tweaked his knee and LG is in the concussion protocol. You’d play them but not anyone who is “banged up”?

    Are you guys wanting our stars to play in FFL playoffs or something? I mean, there is really no other logical explanation for this curious desire to risk our best players in a meaningless game with the playoffs looming.

  • Steve Bozell

    And Me First players, like AB. Did you see him after Ben’s first INT Sunday? Threw up his arms in disgust and stood there watching Orr return it. Thankfully Bell didn’t quit on the play.

  • heath miller

    makes zero sense to me.. they can get just as hurt in the first half as the second half? it jst makes no sense at all .. sure the risk is statistically less if they play half a game than a full game… but why wouldnt we treat this as pre season game 4 .. and no starters play ? what is the difference except now the rest is even more important than game 4 pre season .. now players are dealing with nagging injuries and fatigue .. if one of the guys plays and gets hurt remember you heard it from me…dont play any starter that we dont need just to fill our the team

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I’m selfish so I want him to get it. *shrugs*

  • westcoasteeler

    ESPN donkeys called it the Immaculate Extension. They are so clever! 🙁 I think the fact that AB took that tsunami of tackles without going down was Superman-esque! Yes, the reach sealed the play in history, but with Mosley, Weddle (and Powers) all over him!? Wow.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    “Safe”??!! Not sure there is such a thing!!
    Plus if he DOES get hurt!!?? 😑

    No thanks.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    And Bell (several times). And AB (of course on the infamous Burfict hit) and, and, and.

    This is just stupid.

    You play all year to be in position to GET the rest time. Why piss it away?

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Zactly! The purpose of putting up the Ws is to GET THE REST!

    Why piss it away?

  • PA2AK_

    Anyone know where to find a (free) clip of Foster pulling and destroying Mosley?

  • stan

    If he plays next week he could also set the record for the most uncalled blatant facemask penalties in history….

    When I see the highlight I just can’t get past the fact that none of the officials threw a flag after Weddle is attempting to drag Brown’s head away from the end zone by the facemask. Add that to the pass interference last week where Hall is turning Brown’s head away from the ball by the facemask.

  • stan

    Tomlin has typically played his stars for a half and then they sit. I think that plan works just fine.

  • will

    That “lmmaculate Extension” phrase was first posted on the “Steel Balls” website. ESPN trolls picked it up there.

  • nutty32

    Besides the guys that are truly injured, gotta believe that the rest of the starters go at least 1 or 2 drives like in the second preseason game.

  • pittfan

    Really? There is no logical explanation?
    Re-read the part about not playing if they’re banged up…

  • Steve Bozell

    DeAngelo Williams wasn’t banged up last year in week 17 until the Browns banged him up. LeVeon wasn’t two years ago until the Bengals banged him up.

    What part of this are you not understanding? The game means nothing, the one the following week means everything. Why on earth would you risk injury in a meaningless game?

    Would you scrimmage on the week off before the Super Bowl? Rust!

  • BradleyT

    I agree I’d rather not chance it either. But there definitely is a couple safe throws we can make to him to get 10 yards if he really needs it. Run two 5 yard out and throw it if he’s wide open then get him out

  • pittfan

    Dismissiveness and ignorance are not an attractive combination

  • Rob

    I think you rest Ben, Bell, Foster, and Pouncey, if I wasn’t being selfish, AB too.. Let the rest of healthy players on offense play a series. You rest Timmons, Harrison, Gay, maybe Mitchell, and play the rest of the healthy starters on defense a series or two. From there on, backups and reserves only.

    Tell Boswell and Berry to get tf off the field once theyre done kicking.

    Why risk it? I think there is value in consistency. You prepare well. You play well. Messing up that balance for some of the younger guys is also a risk.

  • RickM

    Good suggestions, but Harrison needs to fully rested I think. If they don’t give the 38-year-old the week off after pretty much playing every snap the last few weeks, I’ll be really surprised. I’d also rest Gilbert as I think he’ll be lining up often against Wake in the Wild Card game. We do not need Marcus dinged.

    Apologies, you do have James as you say.

  • Rob

    I have James in there! Yeah I can see them sitting Gilbert too. Hell as long as Ben’s not in the game, I don’t care who they call in to block.

    Edit: I was just thinking of who they have to put in there. If you sit Pounce and Foster. You plug in Finney and Hubbard, i guess. But they don’t have a 3rd reserve as far as I know.

  • RickM

    Lol. Landry gets no love…understandably.

  • Do you stay couped up in your house because you can get blasted by a bus, flip your car, get stabbed, get shot, ext.

    The word you may have missed was intent. The plays/hits you mentioned were missing intent to injure. Dirty players like Burfict or Jones on the Bengals or Suggs on the Ravens have played with intent to injure.

    Look at it this way, the Steelers are on brilliant a 6 game win streak. I’m not changing a damn thing. I want my guys practicing, preparing, working, and focusing the exact same way. Give them the same pregame meals and warm ups. I don’t buy into being rusty after a bye because teams get a bye during the year and aren’t rusty, but that is a forced week off, this will not be.

    I’m not saying they all play 50% of the snaps, but I want my guys to stay in tune. After a series or two, Roethlisberger, Bell, Brown, Pouncey, Harrison, Timmons all come out. Maybe after half time (if you have enough available bodies to play), guys like Decastro, Gilbert, Shazier and/or Mitchel can all come out.

    This is a chance to get a look at a few guys we otherwise would had an additional opportunity to look at like Landry Jones, Mettenberger, Ayers, Finney (at center), Dangerfield, ect.

    Also guys who have missed time like Williams and DHB need to get back on the field and get knock the rust off.

    It’s a delicate situation to handle for sure, but sitting guys out of fear isn’t the right way to go about it.

  • RickM

    Totally agree. A concussion, a sprained ankle…anything even like that compromises the playoffs. There’s absolutely nothing to be gained by risking important guys.

  • Lil Smitty

    let Landry audition foe next year.

  • westcoasteeler

    That actually makes me fell better about it, but I like Marczi’s three miracles. The Will, The Grab and The Extension.

  • Lil Smitty

    Anyone who is questionable should rest. I would like to see Ben rest. It seems to me that he is often out of sync after bye weeks. Give him one or two series to keep his game, then send in Landry. Landry always seems to do better going into games in relief.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    “Safe throws”? ANY play in the NFL can cause injury.
    I MIGHT be OK if it was for the single season, all-time record but for four seasons?
    Quick name me who has the most receptions/yards in:
    3 seasons? 5 seasons?
    Yeah I didn’t know either.
    Nor do I care!!!!

  • I bet you live with a lot of regret living in fear of all the “ifs,” huh…

  • Applebite

    But you still have to field a team to play the game. It’s not going to be much of a game if people are worried somebody might twist their pinky toe.

    They’re not the Pittsburgh Pearlclutchers!

    I mean, I get it, nobody wants to lose good players in a ‘meaningless’ game. But fans need to look at this situation as well: They already have players out with injury, there’s not very much available to field a team with as it is, if you start pulling more off the field. They still need players for special teams as well. So basically, from what a lot of fans are wanting is, the Steelers should just throw the game, because the fans don’t want to see somebody get hurt…

    That can’t happen. You can pull the Big 3, that’s pretty much it. Maybe let Harrison sit, which I don’t think is a smart thing to do. But look at the situation for what it is, I almost expect to see something along the lines of what I’ve suggested, Maybe sit Ben out the whole game. Everything else is Pearl clutching.

  • Pittsburgh Pearclutchers! LOL

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Not really. My biggest fear as it relates to the Steelers is that they DO play AB, he gets hurt, and we don’t have him for the POs.

  • RickM

    The last time Ben was healthy and got a week’s break was in 2015. We went into a tough Seattle stadium and it was a 39-30 shootout. Ben had 2 INT’s, but he also put up 456 passing yards against a Seattle D that on the year gave up only 236 passing yards per game. He basically shred one of the best D’s in the league.

    Roethlisberger may play poorly against (likely) Miami. I sure hope not. But if he does, it won’t be because he doesn’t play well after getting a healthy week off.

  • dennisdoubleday

    It would be selfish to play for that reason. Ben is going to fall short of 4,000 yards passing, but I’ll bet he doesn’t play.

  • It certainly sucked last year, I get it, but he’s played in how many games over how many season and only sustained 1 injury. It only takes one play but he’s played tens of thousands of snaps and he didn’t get hurt.

  • Jim Foles

    coates also last week.. Brown’s facemask this week was bad…… that flag would have stopped the clock… we had no time outs… it was a no call to help the ravens win… lucky brown scored.

  • Bryan Ischo

    Rest him. Who cares about arbitrary stats like that. 4 season span? What about 5 season span? What about 3 season span? 4 is an arbitrary number. Don’t play him just for an arbitrary, meaningless stat.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    I’ll ask you the same ? I asked another ‘let the starters play’ person in this chain.
    Who holds the record for most catches/yards over 3 seasons? 5 seasons?
    This is not a record that enshrines player – it is a statistic that VERY FEW people will remember.
    I would be willing to bet that, of all the people that read this site regularly, probably not 10% knew before this was published today that this opportunity even existed.
    SUPER BOWLS my friend! That is what people remember!!!!

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Oh yeah and I would respond also saying that his fortuitous health is pissing in the face of the Law of Averages
    Sooner or later the bill comes due

  • I never once said anything about stats. Why don’t you scroll down and read my reply to Steve Bozell…

  • heath miller

    yep .. play as few of the starters as possible.. like game 4 in the pre season .. treat this as the same thing

  • heath miller

    tell us that when a starter goes down .

  • Steve Bozell

    This team is running on fumes. 20-6 deficit to Bengals, 20-10 to Ravens before furious rallies. Rest, recharge, get ready for the playoffs.

    Can’t rest everyone, but you can certainly rest Ben, Bell, and AB. Bell is being worked to death. Let’s make sure he sees his first playoff game.

    In answer to your opening bad analogy, I wouldn’t got to work in the coal mine on my last day if I just won the lottery.

  • Steve Bozell

    Ignorance of what? You seem to be the one ignorant of how crippled the Steelers were the last two postseasons because of week 17 injuries.

    I’m dismissive of your idiotic arguments.

  • Don

    Being limited by the 53-man roster, you can’t rest everybody. But certainly no one healthy should be inactive.

  • Kelly Walker

    Ben has a history of not playing well on long rest. I wouldn’t sit him for the entire game, especially since it is the Browns.

  • Don

    The roster limits how many starters you can sit. Obviously anyone battling an injury should not play, but I also wouldn’t give Bell a helmet this week either. Depending on how Ben’s knee feels, I’d either sit him or at the very least play him no more than the first quarter. Beyond that, I’d have to dig down into the details of the roster to figure out who to play/sit. No other healthy scratches, for sure, so I would assume AB has to play, but on as limited basis as possible.

  • Don

    He needs yards, not catches. Hines’ last catch resulted in a loss, if you remember. I think a screen or two on third and long could certainly do the trick.

  • pittfan

    Grow up little boy

  • Donte Williams

    you guys are funny I personally dont have a problem with the Killer Bs playing a series then they done, shazier playing a quarter, timmons harrison as well like commented above we cant sit everyone

  • Donte Williams

    they can get hurt in the first quarter half of the divisional playoff round what is the difference? stop living in fear my friend Coach T and the staff will play who they feel is healthy enough to play and the stars will only get a quarter at most in my opinion

  • Donte Williams

    so does a concussion sprained ankle in the first round of the playoffs compromise the playoffs as well? its just the following week not like we got a bye

  • Kevin78

    I know many think that it is obvious that these really important guys need to sit. Statistical accomplishments are secondary to the concerns of winning. However, I think that there needs to be some balance. This isn’t Zeke needing 180 yards to break Dickerson’s rookie record. Brown needs less than 10 yards. Sometimes I think you let a guy go for a personal achievement if the risk can be minimized.

  • Kevin78

    Brown cares, I am betting. There is something to be said for keeping your stars happy. I think you can minimize the risk of injury to a guy who needs less than 10 yards. Then again, I would be happy if Brown sits, but I don’t blame Tomlin if he lets him go for it. I would blame Tomlin if he let Bell go for 2000 yards though or the all-time yards from scrimmage per game record. Those records require a full game.

  • dany

    AB Speed>Old Hines speed. They designed that play for Hines, they’ll design an 8 yarder for AB and he’ll get 10

  • LucasY59

    IIRC he might have the 2 yr and 3 yr record as well, so continuing is important to him (and probably some others as well)

    being the best in a 4 yr span is a achievement (especially when the career record is held by a HOF WR that had 2 HOF QBs during his career (and played for a VERY LONG time) there is a long way to go for AB to catch up to Rice (and it seems like careers are getting shorter instead of longer)

    It is much more impressive to say AB had the best 4 yrs receiving than any other player in history, than for a single season record (guys like Josh Gordon can have one hot yr) continued excellence is worth recognizing

    keeping the streak also makes it so he can continue and have the best 5,6,7… year streak as well (if he misses by 8 yds this yr he will probably make up for it next yr and be able to get the combined record anyway, but it would be better to have it be the yr after yr streak

  • LucasY59

    yep AB can play a couple of series (or maybe just one down???) and break the record

    AB also knows how to avoid hits (if he does play they wont be sending him across the middle) he can get a few short passes, break the record, and get out of the game with basically the same rest he would get from sitting all game (having AB at the start of the game could help Landry as well)

  • LucasY59

    they have Mihalik that can play RT and Finney at Center and Hubbard at LG (or RG and give DeCastro a rest since Foster has already had a extra week or two off, I guess Ragu is the more Veteran player, but I think losing DD to a stupid injury (in a meaningless game) would be worse)

  • LucasY59

    Browns signing Landry as their next QB in FA… might be the best deal that happens for the Steelers this offseason!

    (in reality if they can re-sign him as cheap depth I wouldnt hate it, but unless theotherberger is really good, I am hoping they draft a decent QB to be the future depth behind BB)

  • LucasY59

    I agree with most of what you say, but I think they have enough depth that by the end of the game most of the Starters will be able to take a seat on the bench

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Given that they are professional players I find it hard to believe that they will lose their skill in two weeks.
    They CAN however lose their health within just two seconds.
    The reward is not worth the risk.

  • LucasY59

    even if they have guys like Finney and Hubbard in, the OL is good enough for D-Lo to run behind for at least a half (maybe more if he is feeling good)

    I think Roethlisberger is going to be inactive the shot to the knee was enough that they wont let him play a down on Sunday

    I also think Pouncey, Bell, Shazier and possibly Harrison might be healthy inactives

    Green, Tuitt and Coates are inactive for injury reasons (possibly Mathews and Golden???) cant remember if there are any other injured players?

    I agree that not only is there not enough depth for all starters to sit, and some would actually benefit from more experience/playing time (so the rookies in the secondary could play most of the game) but some positions have good depth (LBs) and I could see all 4 of them seeing minimal playing time (which could be a bonus since some of those young guys could use the game time (Dirty Red and Chick) and a few others have not been on the field as much as they would have liked this season (VW and Moats) plus there is Jarvis Jones (who could make a final audition before he goes to FA, and hopefully earns the Steelers a decent comp pick)

    It will be interesting to see what Coach T does

  • LucasY59

    AB is smart about avoiding unecessary hits (thats why they still have him returning punts)

    The Steelers arent going to send him across the middle (IF he plays) and there are some very safe routes and throws

    I understand that EVERY play has some risk, but if there was as much risk as you are implying they might as well put AB in bubble wrap until the superbowl (if they can get there without him)

    one last thing, AB cares!!!

  • This team is not running on fumes, they are getting hot at the right time. Bell is not being worked to death, I see him getting stronger every game, within every game getting stronger every snap. And we have won a spot in the dance. That is more like standing in line waiting to see if there are still lottery tickets available.

  • Rocksolid20

    And Weddle twisting the face mask !

  • Rocksolid20

    We played with out him and lost in the playoffs , but then we can go back and say , but he got the record for yards in four years .

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    You and I will have to agree to disagree on this.
    This is not breaking the all time receiving record, this is setting a record in a category that nobody will remember. Want proof? Without going to Google tell me who holds the record for most rushing TDs over a four year span.
    See what I mean?
    If he gets it, it’s nice and all but if he gets hurt there goes our 7th SB!!!!
    Remember how 3 weeks from now last season, right after we lost to DEN, we felt?
    “If only AB wasn’t hurt”. “If only Bell wasn’t hurt”.
    Is it really worth it for a manufactured record that nobody (granted maybe AB does care) will remember?