Over the course of the past week or so, NFL.com has been publishing a series of articles using their Next Gen Stats to tabulates the highest performers in a number of different areas. Previous columns have highlighted the best quarterbacks and wide receivers in tight-window throws, the most elusive running backs, and the teams that generated the most pressure.
In each of these, there was an effort toward objectivity, rigidly defining plays and listing them in order. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown made their respective lists, and the Pittsburgh Steelers defense also made the pressure list. Yesterday’s list, however, featured the best quarterback and wide receiver tandem that, while using statistics, was created by Matt Harmon using his subjective interpretation of them.
As the title alludes to, not only did he place the Steelers’ duo of Roethlisberger and Brown at the top of the list, this also should in no way be surprising. There are few duos who frankly should even be in the running for discussion.
“After a slow start to the year, Ben Roethlisberger finished the 2017 regular season as hot as he’s been in the last three years”, Harmon wrote. “Antonio Brown looked like a potential MVP candidate before going down with a leg injury in Week 15. The Steelers duo was particularly effective on difficult passes along the sideline: Brown led all wideouts with 229 yards gained on boundary targets (within 1 yard of the sideline)”.
We talked about a similar trait in another article a couple of days ago. Roethlisberger and Brown, largely because of one another, were among the most effective players at their positions last season in completing tight-window throws, with a defender within a yard of the target. Sideline throws prevent a similar degree of difficulty.
“Roethlisberger’s precise ball placement and Brown’s ultra-sticky hands make even the most challenging throws look routine. Both players will return for 2018 to further bolster resumes that will land them in Canton someday”.
I’m certainly not going to argue with Harmon’s conclusion. While Roethlisberger is already a lock for the Hall of Fame, it would take a tremendous change of fate in order for Brown not to make it, and truthfully, what he has already done may be eventually enough to get him in, given the number of firsts that he owns, such as the first player with 1000 receiving yards and 1000 return yards in a single season, or the first with 100 receptions in five consecutive seasons.
For those wondering, the rest of the duos were, in order: Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen; Drew Brees and Michael Thomas; Case Keenum and Adam Thielen; Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill; Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones; DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins; Jared Goff and Robert Woods; Matt Ryan and Julio Jones; and Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin.
You can click the link included to get his explanations for his other rankings, such as why Tom Brady and X Receiver didn’t make the top 10, or why Ryan and Jones were so far down the list.