Lost amidst both the emotional outcome of the game, which included a 17-point comeback from the offense and the Pittsburgh Steelers defense blanking in the second half a Denver Broncos offense that put up 27 in the first—and in Antonio Brown’s record-setting performance—was the fact that second-year wide receiver posted a new career-high with 10 receptions on the day. His previous career-high came just last week with seven.
It was not a big-play day by any means for the 6’4” receiver—he totaled ‘just’ 87 receiving yards—but he did a nice job of gaining yards after the catch on a series of screen passes, often turning short gains into first downs that helped keep drives alive or on schedule.
His longest gain of the day was 15 yards, which he did twice, and was almost three yards fewer than his average reception on the season. Half of his 10 receptions went for at least 10 yards, though he certainly was not without his own blemishes.
There was at least one play on the day on which Bryant certainly dropped the ball, and another will have to take a second look to determine for sure, but he also did well to defend a deep pass early in the game from being intercepted.
He was very proficient in shaking tacklers near the catch point, and on one occasion appeared to do so with rook to run up the right sideline, but in eluding the defender, the very back of his left heel just barely grazed the white line to rule him out of bounds, which set up a third down, which he ended up converting himself on the next play.
In all, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeted Bryant three times on third down, and each time the play resulted in a reception and a first down. At the end of the second quarter, he caught an 11-yard pass on third down and two. He posted a gain of 10 yards on third and nine early in the third quarter. On the next drive, he caught a six-yard pass on third and four.
On the year, Bryant has now caught 48 passes for 759 yards and six receiving touchdowns (one rushing touchdown), averaging 15.8 yards per reception. His reception total from his rookie season has shot up dramatically, already posting 22 more than the 26 he had last year in one less game played.
But he was more efficient last year, averaging 21.1 yards per reception and accumulating 549 yards on those 26 receptions, with eight touchdowns. He is now averaging 5.3 receptions per game for 84.3 yards. If he wants to reach 1000 receiving yards, he will need to average 121 yards over the last two games.