Antonio Brown played in six postseason games prior to today. In none of them did he end up in the end zone with the ball. By the time eight minutes had passed in the first quarter today, however, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro wide receiver had not one, but two touchdowns, both of the explosive variety, setting the stage for a comfortable victory for his team in the Wildcard round.
The first reception wasn’t designed to be a big play, necessarily, just a simple screen pass on first and 10 at midfield. But Brown got some good blocking out in front of him by wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Jesse James that sprung him up the left sideline for the score.
He made a subtle cut inside to draw the cornerback in, allowing James to get on him and provide the sideline lane. The rest of that play was just speed, which is an underrated facet of his game, given that critics tend to fall back on his Combine 40-yard dash time.
After the defense got the ball back, Ben Roethlisberger found Brown again on second and seven from the Steelers’ own 38-yard line. He beat the cornerback to the inside and was then off to the races, making the cornerback miss at the catch point and then able to turn the corner on the safety to run down the gut and straight into the end zone, putting the Steelers up 14-0.
Over the course of the rest of the game, he caught three more passes for just 12 yards, but the damage was done early on. In fact, his two touchdowns in the first eight minutes allowed the Steelers to outscore the Dolphins for the length of the game, who finished with just 12 points, the fewest amount of points they have allowed in a postseason game since the 2005 Super Bowl.
There are, of course, some caveats to what I mentioned at the top of the article. This was Brown’s seventh postseason game, but the first three game during his rookie season, before he was even close to established as a part of the offense.
There was another game—I believe in the playoff loss to the Ravens in 2014—during which he very nearly caught a touchdown on a deep pass down to the one-yard line or so, but the review ruled that he did not cross the goal line before he was down.
Still, Brown’s 124 yards on the day established a new playoff career-high in yardage for him, in addition to resulting in the first two postseason scores in his seven years. His damage may have been done early, but it was destructive to Miami’s efforts.
It also should be taken into consideration that Roethlisberger only threw 18 passes throughout the game, including 13 completions. Brown caught five of them for 63 percent of the Steelers’ passing yardage.