Through the first quarter of the 2014 season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger boasts a quarterback rating of 99.7 following a three-touchdown, zero-interception performance.
That figure would rank as the third-best in his career, while it currently places him seventh in the league for this season behind six quarterbacks with a rating of 100 or better.
But when Roethlisberger is throwing to Antonio Brown, there is no connection in the entire league that can compare.
For the year, Roethlisberger has completed 96 of 141 passes for a completion percentage of 68.1—the best of his career. He has thrown for 1092 yards, which also puts him on pace for the most yardage in a single season during his career.
His yards per pass attempt figure of 7.7 is just a tenth off of his career average, which is among the highest in league history. And thus far, he has thrown six touchdowns to two interceptions, with five touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last two games.
Five of those six touchdowns, however, have gone to Brown. He has completed 29 of 38 passes in Brown’s direction for a completion percentage of 76.3, which currently places him seventh among wide receivers with at least 25 targets.
Brown’s 427 yards ranks fourth in the league among receivers; on 38 targets, that translates to 11.2 yards per attempt for the Roethlisberger-to-Brown connection. That is, I believe, the best in the league among qualified receivers. He also ranks fifth in the league in yards per route run with 2.77.
The fifth-year receiver is well on his way to carving out a second consecutive All-Pro season. The numbers that he has put up put him on pace to break not only his own records, but franchise records.
As it stands, Brown is on pace for 116 receptions for 1708 yards and 20 touchdowns. Of course, he’s likely to fall shy, if not well shy, of some or all of those marks, but it goes to show how important he’s been to this team early on this year.
In fact, only Louis Lipps has ever had more touchdown receptions through the first quarter of a season for the Steelers when he once caught six.
Brown has only caught more than five touchdowns in a season once, and that was last year with eight. He’s currently tied with a few other players for touchdowns after recording consecutive games with multiple touchdown receptions for the first time in his career.
Here is the rundown of the quarterback to wide receiver connection:
27 percent of Roethlisberger’s passes have been targeted at Brown. Over 30 percent of his completions have been caught by him. 39 percent of his passing yardage and 83 percent of his touchdown passes have been to him. His quarterback rating when targeting Brown is 141.1.
Most notably, when Roethlisberger is targeting anybody but Brown this year, he has only averaged 6.5 yards per pass attempt, a full 1.2 yards less than his overall average. If that doesn’t tell you how valuable Brown is to this team and to this quarterback, then I don’t know what can.