While he may still be (just barely) searching for his first postseason touchdown in his career, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown proved that he could be a big time player in the games that count the most as he posted a stat line of nine receptions for 117 yards in Pittsburgh’s Wildcard round loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Had a couple of plays gone slightly differently, there might be a pair of touchdowns tacked on to the end of that list. Midway through the second quarter, Ben Roethlisberger put just a bit too much air on a deep pass that forced Brown to elevate and gave the safety enough time to recover and push the receiver out of bounds.
Late in the game, of course, Brown caught what was initially called a 45-yard touchdown pass, which was later ruled a 44-yard pass down to the one-yard line, his knee being down after contact following a defensive turnover.
Of course, Brown’s offensive contributions started before he was ever targeted for a pass. Early in the game, after a Ben Tate first down run, the newly signed back ended up putting the ball on the ground. It just so happened to spill slightly forward where Brown was standing, who was able to pick it up and retain possession for the Steelers.
His first reception came three plays later, on a third and 10, and it was an impressive one in multiple aspects. Lined up in the left sidecar, Brown shifted out wide right prior to the snap, loafing around at the snap before turning sharply back to the quarterback, whose delivery was wide and caused him to stretch out for it.
Upon the reception, Brown spun around and faced the cornerback, juking and making him miss inside. He then raced to the first down marker, where he just edged out two defenders to keep the drive moving along.
On his next target, the Steelers showed a run set with two tight ends to the right, and Brown split out wide left with Markus Wheaton just to his inside. Wheaton drew the corner in as Brown took off upfield, getting the deep corner turned inside with a double move as he found space curling to the sideline for an 18-yard reception.
It was a bit later in that drive, on a third and one, in which Brown nearly had his first postseason touchdown. One could argue that Brown may not have had to elevate to catch the ball, but his instincts, measuring the hangtime of the ball and the encroaching safety to his right, told him it was necessary.
It was early in the fourth quarter, of course, when this play occurred, as was already described above. Brown came out of the slot on this play and could have easily scored had the delivery been deeper.
Late in the game, with the Steelers still trying to salvage a victory, he successfully ran off Lardarius Webb’s coverage while chasing back the deep safety to locate the soft spot in the zone, picking up 19 yards, though Daryl Smith coming in late added a degree of difficulty to the end of the play.