The Pittsburgh Steelers took care of business on Sunday by knocking off the Ravens and in doing so locking up not just the AFC North, but also the third seed in the AFC, with the inability to improve or hurt their standing in the final game of the season.
That is a minor misfortune, potentially, for wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is just a few yards shy of establishing another longevity record in addition to extending his record for the most receptions in a four-season span. Based on my layman’s research, he is fewer than 10 yards behind Marvin Harrison for the most receiving yards in a four-season span as well.
You might recall that it was Harrison whose other record Brown broke earlier this season, a couple of games ago, for the most receptions in a four-season span. The former Colts wide receiver caught 469 passes between the 1999 and 2002 seasons. Brown currently has 481 receptions with one game left in the 2016 season.
Of course, the rub here is that, with the Steelers locked into their playoff position, there is an overwhelmingly likely chance that many of their key players will not even see the field in the regular season finale against the Browns. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger already immediately expressed his hopes that many will be able to rest prior to the start of the postseason.
Assuming that that is indeed the case, and players such as Roethlisberger and Brown sit this one out, that will leave the All-Pro wide receiver tantalizingly close to passing Harrison’s yardage mark for that same four-season span, during which he gained, from what I can find, the most yardage in such a span in NFL history through the air with 6322 yards.
Since the 2013 season, Brown has caught, as mentioned, 481 passes, and he picked up 6315 yards through the air. He would need just seven yards to tie Harrison’s yardage mark, and eight to surpass it, for what I believe to be the most in NFL history.
At over 6300 yards, Brown has averaged nearly 1580 receiving yards per season during this streak. It should go without saying, in explaining my research methodology, that any player who has failed to record at least that many yards in a single season would be immediately eliminated from the hunt.
Jerry Rice would be an obvious candidate, the leader in career receiving yardage, and the man who owned the most yards in a single season in NFL history for a long while. He actually had five seasons of at least 1499 yards, three of which came in consecutive seasons, but the fourth season he had 1254. His best four-year total was 6104.
As for Calvin Johnson, his best in a four-year period was 6257. Torrey Holt had 5996 yards. Others, such as Isaac Bruce, Andre Johnson, and Julio Jones, had superb streaks broken up by injury-ridden years. Brown’s string of health is obviously a key element in his success.