His status to play on Sunday in the Divisional round may be in question at the moment, but the excellent of his 2015 season is not, which is why Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was for the second time in as many years named to the first-team All-Pro team, having also been recognized on the second-team the year prior.
The sixth-year veteran received yet another accolade today, being recognized by Pro Football Focus as their Offensive Player of the Year after the statistics website gave him the highest grade that they have ever given a wide receiver since they began tracking data in 2007.
PFF’s description of his season even begins with the acknowledgement of the fact that he had to toil through a quarter of the season with the services of backup quarterbacks, particularly with Mike Vick under center, during which his numbers suffered notably.
When Ben Roethlisberger was on the field for the majority of a game, Brown excelled unconditionally, and had he been able to play with the Steelers’ starting quarterback for a full 16-game season, his prorated numbers would have blown away previous recorded with approximately 160 receptions and over 2100 receiving yards.
Still, it was not his mere numbers, but how they were achieved, that earned Brown near universal recognition, including PFF’s annual award, with his on-field excellence being attributable largely to the extensive work that he puts in during practice and in the class room and film study.
All of his work—and of course his natural abilities, not to mention the years-long effort that has gone into building a rapport and trust with Roethlisberger—has enabled Brown to exceed expectations annually, continuing to build off of past successes and reach new heights. As PFF tells it:
Despite his small stature, he can get open at every level of the field using slippery route-running and above-average downfield ball skills to make plays. In addition to winning within the framework of the offense, Brown and QB Ben Roethlisberger have excellent chemistry when plays break down, and Roethlisberger’s improvisational skills mesh perfectly with Brown’s ability to lose a defender during the scramble drill.
The description goes on to note that he has only dropped five passes on the season in their data, which ranks him as fifth-best in terms of drop rate. Brown finished as the second runner-up for PFF’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, and he has only improved since then.
This year, the first runner-up was Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who had by far the best season of his long career, leading Arizona to a 13-3 season and a playoff bye week, grading out positively in every game for PFF.
Behind Palmer as the second runner-up, as should be no surprise, was Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who actually finished the season with the same number of receptions as Brown, and a bit more yards, finished second or tied for second all-time in both numbers. He also led the league in yards after the catch.