In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season opener against the Cleveland Browns, fifth-year wide receiver Antonio Brown already had six receptions for 116 yards and a 35-yard touchdown by the time the first half came to a close.
Even though he went on to be shut out in the second half of that game, his production through the first two quarters was already a hard day’s work.
It also kept his streak of consecutive games with at least five receptions and 50 yards alive after accomplishing that feat in every game of the 2013 season.
That streak appeared to be in jeopardy early last night against the Baltimore Ravens when he took a hard, and illegal, hit to the helmet from Darian Stewart after bringing in an 18-yard reception in third and 14 on the opening drive.
The free safety was not flagged on the play, but you can be assured that he will be fined later on in the week, as will both of the Steelers’ safeties.
But I digress. The hit sent Brown to the sidelines, and ultimately to the locker room with the Steelers’ team physician, who happens to be one of the leading figures in the treatment of concussions in professional football.
Brown only missed one Steelers offensive possession by the time he was cleared to resume play. Some, frankly, were surprised to see him return to the field so quickly after the hit that he took, but here’s to hoping that he did not play through a concussion.
At that point in the game, Brown had just two receptions for 18 yards. He added two more receptions for 21 yards before halftime, giving him four receptions for 39 yards heading into the second half.
He needed just one reception for 11 yards to further his streak to 18 games, but he was shut out for all of the third quarter, being targeted only once on an incomplete pass.
Ben Roethlisberger continued to look his way, however, throwing two more passes incomplete in his direction on the following two drives until the pair finally connected again with just over three minutes left to play.
In fact, three of four plays went to Brown on that final possession, with the All-Pro target hauling in consecutive completions of 12, 27, and 12 yards.
Roethlisberger’s final pass of the game, which was tipped and intercepted by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, was also headed for his favorite target.
Brown finished the game leading both teams with seven receptions for 90 yards, giving him 13 receptions for 206 yards and a touchdown through the first two weeks of the season. He also kept his impressive individual performance streak alive. But it feels like quite a hollow accomplishment when it comes in a 20-point loss where the offense mustered just two field goals.