Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is arguably the best wide receiver in the league right now, but it hasn’t always been that way; he has come a long way since entering the league.
A far more radical shift, however, is in how Brown has been viewed around the league. He has faced questions at every step along the way, ever since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Brown was one of two wide receivers taken in that draft class, with the other coming in the third round. It seemed as though he might be a longshot to even make the roster. And even after making the roster, it became a weekly competition between him and Emmanuel Sanders to see who gets to play that week, which head coach Mike Tomlin described as two dogs and one bone.
Even after breaking out in his second year and becoming the first player in NFL history to record 1000 yards through the air as well as 1000 yards in returns, people still doubted if he could be a full-time starter, which came the next season.
Then Mike Wallace left in free agency, and people wondered whether or not Brown could be a true number one wide receiver without Wallace’s elite deep speed opening things up and drawing coverage away from him.
Noted Steelers fan Dave Dameshek was among those doubters, which he was reminded of when Brown recently appeared on his show. Two years ago, Ike Taylor was on Dameshek’s show, and Taylor told him that Brown is a number one receiver.
Brown reminded him of what he said two years ago, telling him that Taylor told him, and walked out of the room for five minutes before coming back in and revealing it to be a prank.
Even though it was staged, however, it does serve as a reminder about how much Brown’s public perception has changed, not from when it was drafted, but just over the course of the past two seasons.
Of course, with well over 200 receptions, 3000 yards, and 20 touchdowns in that two-season span, both of which ended in a trip to the Pro Bowl, it would only be natural for attitudes to change.
Dameshek is not normally my favorite media personality, to be charitable, but he may have been right in calling Brown the Tom Brady of wide receivers, at least in the present day NFL. Nobody has traveled as far from their starting point in the league to where they are now at his position than has Brown, who right now may be on the very top of the totem pole.
One interesting thing that Brown said during his interview with Dameshek was that he would choose the Hall of Fame over a Super Bowl trophy. I’m sure that’s a not insignificant segment of fans that would take issue with him saying that, but I think it reveals something about him and his journey.
He’s learned that he can only control what he can control, and a championship is dependent on so much going right. But a Hall of Fame career can be had through individual excellence, and that is the path that he has taken since entering the league.