The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the best rushing teams in the NFL last season. Part of the reason that was so successful is that the Steelers are one of the best deep-ball offenses in the league. The latest proof of that was this graphic presented by Pro Football Focus illustrates how dangerous Antonio Brown is on deep routes.
His success is made even more impressive when you consider he is only 5-foot-10. He beats defenses with razor-sharp routes and some of the best hands in the league.
But if Brown is that good on deep routes, what does that say about his quarterback? Pro Football Focus has you covered on that as well and the bottom line is Ben Roethlisberger is one of the deep-throwing quarterbacks in the league and the tandem might be the best in the NFL.
It will be interesting to see how the return of Martavis Bryant changes this. He’s the standard when it comes to a deep threat. Elite length and track speed make him a matchup nightmare. He and Brown are going to make sure no safety in the NFL can take a play off when these two are on the field.
The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up fifth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Intro: Brown continued to show in 2016 why he’s perhaps the league’s best wide receiver as his 106 total receptions was second only to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Brown would have had even more catches had he not been rested in the regular season finale. His 106 receptions also came in a season in which the Steelers did not have fellow wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the full year due to a suspension and wide receiver Marcus Wheaton for most of the year due to an injury. In short, Brown’s production came against defenses looking to bracket him on a weekly basis.
Current Strengths: Precision route running and reliable hands makes Brown a beast to cover as he’s been known to tie cornerbacks into knots down the seams and on out-breaking assignments. He uses excellent body control to win contested footballs and his footwork along the sidelines has also produced more than a few amazing chain movers. He’s a very hard worker and always looking for ways to improve his game. His will to win is second to none.
Current Weaknesses: If there are a few knocks on Brown right now the first might be that he needs to offer more effort as a blocker when the football isn’t in his own hands and especially on running plays. Another knock, which could be related mostly to how other teams covered him last season, is the fact that Brown’s yards after the catch average stat was 3.88, the lowest of his career for a single season. Other than than those two things, hopefully he has fewer excessive celebration penalties in 2017 thanks to the offseason rule change.
2017 Outlook: With Bryant expected back for the 2017 season, slot wide receiver Eli Rogers another year experienced and the addition of JuJu Smith-Schuster via the draft, opposing defenses will really need to reconsider if they want to pay as much attention to Brown as teams did last season. Regardless, Brown figures to still register another 100 plus receptions in 2017 and around 10 receiving touchdowns. His career average yardage per reception is 13.3 and he should come close to hitting that number this upcoming season after a 12.1 2016 season. Brown might have to return punts once again in 2017 if a better option doesn’t come forward during training camp.