The old running joke was that the only person capable of shutting down Antonio Brown was Mike Vick.
Despite Vick starting three games and Ben Roethlisberger missing a total of four, Brown is still on pace to match his ridiculous numbers from a year ago.
So far this year, Brown has caught 93 passes for 1310 yards and 7 touchdowns. Prorate that out over the rest of the season and you get a final projection of: 124 receptions, 1746 yards, and 9 touchdowns.
Compare that to his 2014 totals of: 129 receptions, 1698 yards, and 13 touchdowns, right in line with that projection. Another monster game could put those figures even higher. And he has three tasty matchups to capitalize on.
If the Cincinnati Bengals are without Adam Jones this Sunday, they’ll be force to deploy a thin secondary. Rookies Josh Shaw and Troy Hill may be forced into action and with the Bengals desire to play sides, not shadow receivers, the Steelers can get Brown in some advantageous situations.
Over the final two weeks, the Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, each team ranking in the bottom half of the NFL in pass defense. Vick hampered Brown’s numbers in the first matchup with the Ravens, catching only five passes for 42 yards, but he’ll obviously see those numbers skyrocket the second time around. In mid-November, Brown snagged 10 receptions for 139 yards with two touchdowns against the Browns. The Browns’ secondary is one of the worst in the league, marred by injury and forced to play youth.
The other game, against the Denver Broncos, will see Brown square off against one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Chris Harris. Similar to his battle with Richard Sherman, it won’t be easy, but will be one of the most exciting matchups. Greatness facing greatness.
The fact Brown is in the same stratosphere as his 2014 numbers is remarkable even before you consider the injury circumstances that have fought to trip him up.
If Brown manages to break the 120 catch, 1600 yard barrier, he’ll be the first player in NFL history to do so in consecutive seasons. He’d join Cris Carter as the only two players to have 120 catches in repeat years and Calvin Johnson as the only players with 1600 yards in consecutive seasons.
But no one has done both.
Until Brown, who has that mark directly in his sights.