Final grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers continue with wide receiver Antonio Brown. The 25 year old entered his 4th season with the Steelers in 2013. Brown was part of the original ‘Young Money Crew’ along with Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. During the 2012 offseason, Brown was signed to a rather large contract extension over the uncooperative Mike Wallace. Brown did not have as many receiving yards in 2012 than he did in 2011 that impressed the Steelers brass to put their stock in him as the future of Steelers wide outs. Questions swirled around Brown’s ability to be a real deal #1 receiver, but it looks like all it took was to have Wallace fly south in order for Brown to truly step up.
Despite the Steelers’ 0-4 start and 2-6 first half to the season, Antonio Brown put up some very impressive numbers. 110 receptions for almost 1,500 yards is very good among wide outs in the league. The former Chippewa and 6th round pick ranked 2nd in the league (only to Pierre Garcon of all people) in receptions and 2nd in the league in receiving yards. In fact, Brown beat out wide out superstar Calvin Johnson who ranked 3rd and seven yards behind. Brown ranked 5th in the league in yards per game with 93.7. He tied for 13th in TD’s (no surprise that Demaryius Thomas from Pey Pey’s Broncos led the league in that category). Other interesting stats to make note of – Brown was 2nd in the league with 69 receiving first downs (Brandon Marshall had 70).
The Year In Review:
The stats don’t lie that it was a pretty fantastic year for Antonio Brown. He continually put up good numbers week in and week out. You could even argue that he was the spark that kept on shining through the ups and downs of this team and the season. I would even go as far and say that there was a period of great maturation for Brown. The early swagger he continued to display while his team sat at 0-4 was nothing short of annoying and displayed his lack of maturity and sense. His unwillingness to return punts on a regular basis and opt for fair catches or dives to the turf before taking a hit was nothing short of infuriating and displayed a glimpse of what was going on in that locker room during the Steelers 2-6 start to the season. Somewhere along the way in Weeks 9, 10 and 11, something changed in Brown, and he began acting like a leader on the field, and used his play on the field to do the speaking. He never gave up on plays, and you could tell he was trying to make the most of every snap. One could even say this spark helped turn the attitude of the team and set them back on their winning ways. Makes for a good candidate as team MVP, eh?
Brown has much to be proud of in the 2013 season. He broke the Steelers single season receiving yards record with 1,499 yards by the end of Week 17. He came close to breaking the Steelers single season reception record but fell short of Hines Ward’s 112 receptions, but he is only the second player in Steeler history to break the 100 reception mark. Brown also became the only player in NFL history to have at least 5 receptions and 50 yards in every single game of the regular season. A great achievement and should stand for quite some time as each offense out there is unique and distributes the ball differently with its players. Brown eclipsed his own TD reception achievement by nabbing 8 TD’s and running a punt return back for one. Brown made it into the Pro Bowl for the first time as a wide receiver and was named to the NFL’s second team All-Pro.
There’s no doubt that Brown’s stock is way up. He solidified himself as the Steelers #1 receiver and solidified that moving on from Mike Wallace was a brilliant move. He is Roethlisberger’s favorite target these days (which may or may not be attributed to Heath Miller’s slow climb back from injury). His maturation during the season is important to make note of and he is beginning to take up some shared leadership on this offense. The Steelers may have fallen short of the playoffs for the second season in a row, but Brown had a spectacular season full of great catches, maturation, and some solid achievements.