With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Antonio Brown, WR
What did wide receiver Antonio Brown do as an encore to having one of the best seasons a Steelers receiver has ever had in 2013? He put himself on pace to better that even further.
Through 11 games, Brown already has 88 receptions for 1161 yards, which are the most and second-most in the league, respectively. He also has a career-high nine touchdown receptions.
Jerricho Cotchery caught 10 touchdown passes last season, but the last time a receiver had more than 10 was in 2005 when Hines Ward did it. Ward also holds the team record with 12 touchdown receptions in 2002. Brown is on pace to tie that, if not surpass it.
Browns’ numbers that he’s already accumulated put him in the top 15, if not top 10, in their respective categories in franchise history, and he still has five more games to bring those numbers to the top of the organization’s record books.
Despite being just 26 years old, Brown’s veteran presence within the wide receiver room has been invaluable as the offense looks to incorporate younger pieces into the mix, such as Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, and, earlier in the season, Justin Brown.
There’s no better example they could ask for in terms of learning from somebody who is dedicated to his craft, as Brown works harder and longer at becoming the best wide receiver in the league—which he may well be—than anybody.
That hard work has transformed him into a model of consistency, as he has caught at least five passes for at least 50 yards in every game he’s played over the past two seasons, for a total of 27 games. He has recorded at least 70 yards in every game this season.
He did put the ball on the ground for the first time two weeks ago, for which he beat himself up. He responded last week by catching nine passes for 91 yards, including four passes on third down, adding the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. That is exactly the kind of leadership by example that he must set for this young offense.