There are many reports suggesting that despite the fact that he’s logged 265 snaps in six games, Justin Brown will be the odd man out amongst the receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers when rookie Martavis Bryant, presumably, gets his first helmet.
This is as opposed to Darrius Heyward-Bey, he of 24 snaps and one reception for zero yards. But the two do have some similar skill sets, with the edge on special teams going to the veteran, so it wouldn’t surprise me. Here is what the Steelers will be ‘missing’ if Brown is inactive on Monday, looking back at his contributions in the Cleveland Browns game.
Brown threw a key block down the field on the Steelers’ first successful third down conversion of the game, which came on their second drive about six minutes into the game.
Facing third and three near midfield, they put three receivers on the right side, with Brown on the left. The handoff went to Le’Veon Bell, dashing to the left sideline. There, Brown chased Joe Haden down the field on a bluff route before hitting the breaks and blocking down on him. The result was a 12-yard gain up the free left sideline.
Brown was rewarded for his run blocking late in the opening quarter when the Steelers were again facing a third down. This time it was third and one, with the slot receiver first lined up on the left side before motioning to the right pre-snap.
The result was a three-receiver bunch on the right side with two defenders to cover. With the other two receivers fanning out, Brown found himself in soft space for an easy two-yard completion to move the chains.
With Ben Roethlisberger desperate to crack into the Browns’ big lead just before halftime, he looked in his 6’3” receiver’s direction with 16 seconds left on a deep ball up the left sideline.
Curling from the slot to the sideline, Brown was able to beat the slot cornerback to the spot, but the ball was placed just a bit too far for the receiver to be able to drag both feet inbounds.
Even with an expanding deficit on the scoreboard that demanded the Steelers play Lance Moore in the second half, Brown still did get some snaps, including the first snap of the third quarter.
He was able to give safety Donte Whitner a nice little pop at the point of attack as he tried to shoot a gap, though the safety eventually spun out of it. The problem is that Heath Miller had already been beaten by the outside linebacker, who was in the process of dragging Bell down by that point.
Roethlisberger kept looking in Brown’s direction as a receiver, being targeted on four passes. He caught two, with one other being caught out of bounds. The other was defended well by Buster Skrine, which is something you don’t say often.
But as has always been the case, Brown’s primary contribution in the game was as a blocker. This was more relevant at the start of the game than at the finish, so it’s no surprise that most of his snaps came in the first half.