Recently, I wrote about the fact that Pro Football Focus published their own All-Pro list, on which the Pittsburgh Steelers were completely shut out of the first-team line. Only wide receiver Antonio Brown made the second-team unit, though a couple of Steelers did manage to get an ‘honorable mention’, which means about as much as making their first-team list, since you don’t exactly get anything out of it.
Yesterday, however, the actual All-Pro list game out, and a few Steelers did make it, including Brown on the first-team offense, along with Julio Jones among the wide receivers. Le’Veon Bell and David DeCastro both made the second-team offense.
That Bell made the second-team All-Pro list—though as the ‘flex’ player, not as the starting running back—should say a lot about his season, considering that he only played a quarter of it. But more importantly, I think the Associated Press got it right with Brown on the first-team unit.
PFF, for the most part, rely almost entirely on their own play-to-play grading for their analysis and grading, and thus their attribution of awards, which doesn’t leave much room for nuance and circumstance. Their first-team wide receivers certainly had more favorable circumstances going for them this year.
And still, he finished out the season—while sitting out the last game—with 106 receptions, for 1284 yards, and 12 touchdowns. If you prorated him the final game, he would have finished with something like 113 receptions for 1370 yards, and maybe 13 touchdowns.
As it is, he finished with the second-most receptions—by one—the second-most receiving touchdowns, and the fifth-most receiving yards in the league, and all but Jones, who only played 14 games, played a full season.
The Ben Roethlisberger situation also has to be taken into account, as he not only missed one game, aside from the finale, but also played through injury for a game and a half as well. We saw last season how Brown’s numbers dipped when Roethlisberger was not on the field.
Injuries at the wide receiver position also affected his numbers because defenses play Brown differently from just about any other receiver. Some teams even employed triple coverage to attempt to contain him with no real threats to face on the opposite side of the field, and even that didn’t always manage to work.
And all the numbers in the world could not account for his final catch of the season, a four-yard touchdown pass on which he powered through multiple defenders at the goal line just to reach the ball across and break the plane. The catch not only took down their most bitter rivals, but granted them the third seed that allowed Brown and several other starters to rest in the season finale.
Of course, his resume would look even better had his go-ahead, fake-spike touchdown against the Cowboys stood, taking down arguably the hottest team in the league in epic fashion. But it is plays like that that rightly transcend his raw statistics.