Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is widely regarded as the best at his position currently playing in the league today, but up until Sunday, he has struggled mightily in being given the opportunity to demonstrate as much.
Brown was off to his usual spectacular start at the beginning of the season, catching at least nine passes for at least 100 yards in each of the first three games, including a touchdown pass in each of the first two.
His production rapidly took a nose dive in Week Three following Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, a game in which he was on pace to accomplish something rather impressive. The entirety of Brown’s production took place with Roethlisberger in at quarterback, receiving only one errant target after that.
Roethlisberger was injured 10 minutes into the first quarter, during which Brown had already accumulated 11 receptions for 108 yards. With another 20 minutes of playing time left available to him, going against a favorable matchup, he could have had an exceptional game.
Over the course of his playing time with Mike Vick under center, which lasted over 11 quarters, Brown accumulated a total of 9 receptions for 96 yards, or less than the total amount of production that he had in less than full three quarters with Roethlisberger in the game in which he was injured.
But we saw Brown’s production return with Landry Jones at quarterback, the first glimpse of which occurred a week ago Sunday, after he replaced Vick against the Cardinals. The third-year quarterback threw a nice back shoulder pass to Brown for a 23-yard gain that signaled things would be okay.
Jones made his first career start on Sunday, and with that came the return of Brown’s five-catch, 50-yard minimum. On the day, the All-Pro receiver gained 124 yards on six receptions, including two explosive plays, one of which gained 41 yards.
It is hard to reason that Vick’s inability to get production out of Brown was not a commentary about his incompatibility with said receiver. In fact, outside of his 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton, there had not been much to go on to suggest that he offered much of anything in the way of dynamic play.
Vick was seemingly rarely on the same page with the Steelers’ prized receiver, though it must be pointed out that Brown did have an opportunity for an explosive touchdown reception against the Ravens that he was unable to hold on to, in spite of its degree of difficulty.
There’s no doubt that Brown has been quite frustrated on the field without Roethlisberger flinging him the ball over the course of the past month, as he has not been able to contribute to the team’s success as he has grown accustomed to doing.
But things should be back on track now, and kicking but into full swing starting this week, when Roethlisberger is expected to make his return after missing the past four games with a knee injury. And I’m sure you will not find a person happier about that in the world than Antonio Brown, whose rapport with Roethlisberger matches any wide receiver-quarterback pairing currently active in the league.