In the two games leading into the Pittsburgh Steelers’s bye week, All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown stormed through opposing secondaries, accumulating 27 receptions for a total of 423 yards, averaging 15.7 yards per catch, and finding the end zone two times.
Last week, against the second-ranked Seattle secondary, Richard Sherman largely kept the sixth-year receiver in check, limited to just six receptions for 51 yards during the game, which, while nothing to sneeze at for the typical receiver, has for him become chump change over the course of the past three years.
Brown is on pace to, for the third straight season, break the franchise’s receiving yardage mark, currently owning the top two marks, which he set in the past two seasons. He is also on pace to surpass the receptions mark that he broke last year, though his new mark of 129—second-most all-time in league history—may be out of his range this season.
Don’t expect the Colts to have the same success that the Seahawks had in limited Brown, however, as Indianapolis simply does not have the firepower in the secondary to match a Richard Sherman.
Realistically, Ben Roethlisberger probably could have targeted Brown against the Seahawks more. His total number of targets was not very significant. But the Steelers’ other targets were getting themselves open to create easier opportunities.
The tight end/fullback position alone combined for nine or 10 catches. DeAngelo Williams tied a career-high with seven receptions. Markus Wheaton simply went off for nine receptions and over 200 yards. It’s not as though the offense had stalled. It just so happened that the Seahawks made it inconvenient to force the ball to Brown.
I don’t expect that that will be the case tonight against the Colts’ secondary, which ranks not far ahead of Pittsburgh’s. on the year, Indianapolis has given up 273 yards through the air per game, which ranks 27th in the league. The Steelers rank 30th.
While they give up 7.4 yards per pass attempt, which has nearly become the new level of acceptable in today’s league, they have given up 20 touchdown receptions on the year, allowing a bit over 60 percent of passes thrown against them to be completed.
That completion percentage allowed actually ranks 10th in the league, but that also tells the story of a poor efficiency on completions. They allow almost 12 yards per completed pass, and have given up a league-high 47 explosive plays through the air, while generating only 19 sacks.
As it so happens, Roethlisberger and Brown have become one of the most efficient duos in producing explosive plays this season, and the Colts give up more than four of them, on average, per game.
On the year, Brown has recorded 16 explosive plays, nine of which have come with Roethlisberger at quarterback. That includes seven plays of at least 40 yards, of which Indianapolis has surrendered eight thus far on the year. I’m sure the pair can’t wait to test out that secondary.