Following his 16-reception game against the Broncos, Antonio Brown was at 116 receptions for the season 13 shy of his career-best 129 that he set last season, and, of course, 14 receptions away from surpassing that mark. He recorded seven receptions on Sunday to get halfway to the goal of breaking his own franchise record for receptions.
Brown’s 129-reception season in 2014 is the second-most that anybody has ever had in a season in NFL history, behind only the 144 that Marvin Harrison had for the Colts more than a decade ago. And that merely makes it all the more remarkable that the league could see two receivers pass that mark this year.
In addition to Brown, Atlanta’s Julio Jones is also having an exceptional season, and actually has better numbers than the Steelers All-Pro. On the year, Jones already has 127 receptions, which is the third-most in a season all-time, and needs only three to become the second player ever to reach 130 receptions in a season.
He also has 1722 receiving yards to lead the league, 75 yards ahead of Brown, who has the second-most receiving yards—in addition to receptions—in the league. The two are far clear of the third-place receiver in either category this year by about 20 receptions and 200 yards.
The comparison to Jones, and to the rest of the league, also helps to serve the fact that this has been a remarkable year for Brown all the same, who has had tremendous success when Ben Roethlisberger has been healthy and on the field.
On Roethlisberger’s 11 games this year, Brown has totaled 106 receptions—not far from 10 receptions per game, amazingly—in addition to 1412 yards, which works out to 128.4 receptions per game. All nine of his touchdown receptions have also come in those 11 games.
To prorate those numbers, if Roethlisberger and Brown had been on the field for every game of a 16-game season maintaining this rate of production, he would have finished the year with 154 and 2054 yards, both of which would have been all-time records.
It’s also worth considering that Roethlisberger’s first game back from injury was also the worst performance that Brown has had with his quarterback on the field since the 2013 season. He had just six receptions for 47 yards in Roethlisberger’s return against Cincinnati, a clear and significant aberration in comparison to his average marks with the quarterback on the field.
It is interesting, then that he can and perhaps likely will finish with numbers superior to his 129-reception, 1698-yard season from 2014, and yet he will likely finish in second on the year in both categories, all the while having had the very real chance of making a huge dent in the record books, had health broken better for the Steelers this year.
In the meantime, he did add two more accolades to his resume, becoming only the second player ever to record 120-reception seasons and 1600-yard seasons in consecutive years, first accomplished by Cris Carter and Calvin Johnson, respectively. He also added most receptions in a two-year span to his growing list, passing Harrison for that honor.