Only two Pittsburgh Steelers were selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl – Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu. Polamalu turned down the trip to Hawaii due to injury, so Brown was the only Steelers representative during the game. In a game that tried to entice fans with new twists and rules, not much changed with the performance on the field at Aloha Stadium – not quite 100% effort from all which led to less the desirable football.
However, Antonio Brown gave football fans and Steeler Nation a few fun moments over the course of the game. Brown played in all four quarters and was largely ignored by his QB’s – Luck, Newton, and Foles. Brown lined up either wide or in the slot for the entirety of the game. No passes came his way for three quarters. It was a bit frustrating to watch. Brown appeared open numerous times after watching replays, but was constantly looked off, especially by Cam Newton. I understand that these guys only practice three days together prior to the game on Sunday, but even I could hit Brown with a few passes playing a pick up game in my back yard.
One play was fairly glaring in how Newton would not connect with Brown. With Team Sanders down on the five yard line, Brown ran an in and out that allowed him to get in front of his defender in the end zone. Newton ran a scripted play action roll out that put him on the same side of the field as Brown. Newton was under pressure, held the ball instead attempting a pass to Brown, and went down.
Brown had one punt return for 7 yards but he ran about 60 yards to get there. Brown received the punt and took about two steps before he started to spin away from pursuit. He continued running backwards and sideways, losing about 15 yards in the process. He was able to get outside on the near sideline and ran upfield until he was forced out of bounds for a net gain of 7 yards. Not a ‘great’ return, but was a little exciting to watch. Once punt returners get the edge after all that running around, it usually means big gains.
Brown’s biggest moment came during the 4th quarter. Team Sanders was driving late with Nick Foles under center. Brown lined up on the far sideline and faced man to man coverage. Replay shows that Foles recognized the coverage, looked at Brown, and grabbed down his face mask to signal Brown he was getting the ball if open. Brown worked around his coverage quickly, and Foles put up a high arcing pass that Brown went up and got before getting both feet in and then getting hit out of bounds. The play was a gain of 39, and that would be the last time we heard Brown’s name.
Brown and Team Sanders fell short after having a touchdown lead late into the 4th quarter. It would have been nice to see the record setting Brown have a little more of a presence during the game, but it seemed like QB’s were honed in on Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, and Jordan Cameron. Well hopefully there will be some more representation from the Steelers next year – ohhh I don’t know like say have Big Ben go instead of the jag clown and turnover inducing Phillip Rivers. Better yet, how about we just make the Pro Bowl game worth while.