Last night, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown made history by becoming the first receiver in NFL history to record at least 355 receptions over the course of a three-season span. He broke Marvin Harrison’s record set between 2000 and 2002 by one reception, which was a game-sealing eight-yard pass on third down. Of course, he has two more games to pad that lead.
But that was not the only bit of history that he made last night, as he also joined Wes Welker as the only other player in NFL history to record at least 110 receptions in three straight seasons. Welker did so between 2007 and 2009, when he tied Harrison’s second-best mark with 346 receptions during that three-season span.
Considering the fact that, prior to three seasons ago, Hines Ward was the only player in franchise history to ever record 110 receptions in a season, that is a pretty remarkable achievement for the sixth-year wide receiver. Brown and Ward, in fact, are the only players in franchise history with even one triple-digit reception season.
They are, in fact, the only Steelers players ever to record a season of at least 90 receptions. Ward has done it four times, while this season marks Brown’s third. Yancey Thigpen’s 85-reception record set in 1995 lasted until Ward caught 94 passes in 2001. Le’Veon Bell’s 83 receptions in 2014 is the ninth-most receptions in a season in team history, with seven of the eight seasons ahead of him owned by either Ward or Brown.
There is another bit of team history that Brown set last night that I also feel should be recognized, as with his two touchdown receptions, that gave him nine on the season, which gives him 30 touchdowns over the course of the past three seasons. He is the first player in franchise history to average 10 touchdowns per season over a three-season period.
Brown first broke out as a scoring threat the season after Mike Wallace departed, catching eight touchdown passes. Last year, he set a franchise record with 13 touchdown passes, which passed Ward’s 12 set in 2002 (the most recent of three players to do it) as the most in franchise history. With nine so far this year—tied for 14th-most in a season—he now has 30 in that span.
The previous best mark was owned by 1960s star and two-time Pro Bowler Buddy Dial, who had 27 touchdown receptions over a three-season period, in a way that can break down in three ways. In either fashion, he had one season of six touchdowns, another of nine, and finally one of 12.
Roy Jefferson soon joined him, as the former 1965 second-round draft pick caught 27 touchdowns between 1968 and 1970, including an 11-touchdown season, the fifth-highest total in team history.
Ward’s best three-season scoring total was 26. He had 12 and 10 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons—currently the only player in team history with consecutive 10-receving-touchdown seasons, though Brown could become the second with one more this year—but in either surrounding season, he had only four.
Wallace is also right there. He had a 10-touchdown season followed by consecutive seasons with eight touchdowns, giving him 26. Only those five players—Brown, Dial, Jefferson, Ward, and Wallace—have had at least 25 receiving touchdowns over a three-year span, though John Stallworth and Lynn Swann had 24 and 23, respectively.