If you missed last night’s preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons and heard that the Steelers scored on 77-yard and 44-yard touchdown passes from Big Ben, most of us would think that at least one of them came from Mike Wallace. Most of us would be wrong, and that is a good thing for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.
Antonio Brown only had 16 catches in 9 games last season. None bigger and solidifying his lore in Steelers history than the catch in the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Ravens and the huge 3rd down catch in the 4th quarter against the Jets in the AFC Championship game – both under the two minute mark in the game. Clutch. Brown played a key role on special teams as one of the kick returners. His explosive speed allowed him to take one of his returns all the way back for a touchdown. His speed, agility, good hands and decent performance over his appearances had most saying the kid showed promise for the upcoming years. Seems like Brown is ready to deliver sooner than most thought.
Brown was on the receiving end of those long TD passes last night. And those big time plays are just a continuation of Brown’s improvement since last season. Brown was considered in the middle of the depth chart when preseason started. Emmanuel Sanders had better numbers and played in more games last season at the receiver position, but became injured at the beginning of training camp. That left the door open for Brown to get more reps and make an impression with Bruce Arians. Even with the addition of Jerricho Cotchery, Brown has had a presence on the field. This big game against the Falcons last night is a testament to all the hard work he’s put in so far. Is it enough to crawl up the depth chart?
Should Brown have another impressive performance against Cam’s Carolina Panters, I believe he could take over as the #2 receiver in the charts. What? That’s crazy talk, right? Ward is such a better slot receiver these days that it will be better to have two speed machines on the outside. Imagine this: The Steelers offense lines up on their own 40 on a 2nd and 5 and decide to go with a four receiver set. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown line up on the outsides and Hines Ward and either Sanders or Cotchery line up in the slots. Talk about a dream come true for Ben Roethlisberger. He has so many offensive weapons now, he won’t know who to throw to. Hell even on a two or three receiver set, putting Brown on the outside with Mike Wallace will have secondaries reeling.
If Brown ends up that high on the chart, you can expect big numbers this season. I expect him to get close to 1,000 yards and half a dozen TD’s this season if he lines up on the outside opposite to Wallace. As much as I hate to see the Steelers move closer and closer to becoming a predominantly passing team, the explosiveness that the offense can muster now is highly reassuring. Keep playing like last night, and Antonio Brown will be a big part of that and have a tremendous year.
Chest Up, Eyes Up. Go get’em, Brown.
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