In a week full of headlining material, there is no bigger headline than the Pittsburgh Steelers inking wide receiver Antonio Brown to a 4-year, 68 million dollar contract extension. It is not only a contract that sees Brown become the highest paid receiver in NFL history but also keeps him in Pittsburgh for the next five seasons. Handing the accolade of highest-paid receiver in NFL history to Brown is the result of confidence in his future and success in year’s past, the latter being a major point of controversy in Pittsburgh.
A contract should never be solely based upon paying for past production, but many in Pittsburgh believe this was exactly what happened during negotiations with Brown. The Steelers front office would tell you different, reasoning that they believe the wide receiver can continue to lead the NFL in receiving categories moving forward. And while some of the fan base may not be on the front office’s side, history is.
Brown’s contract runs from his age 29 to 33 seasons, and history tells us that this is not an age period in which a receiver is expected to decline. Using Brown’s 2016 season as a template, history can tell us how likely it is for a receiver in the age bracket of 29-33 to replicate his performance in 2016. I chose 2016 as the template because it was a season that saw Brown rank second in receptions, fifth in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns despite sitting a game and being the Steelers only legitimate receiving threat.
Since Brown amassed 1284 receiving yards last season, 1200 yards seems like an appropriate starting point for my research. Here is what I found when looking for receivers aged 29-33 who have had over 1200 or more receiving yards in a season.
- 44 receivers have had at least one season with 1200+ receiving yards
- 19 receivers have had two or more seasons with 1200+ receiving yards
- 9 receivers have had three or more seasons with 1200+ receiving yards
- 1 receiver (Jerry Rice) has had 1200+ receiving yards in every season (5) from age 29 to 33
Moving on to receptions next, Brown tallied 106 receptions last year, so I shall leave the benchmark at 106 receptions for the research. Here’s what history tells me about receivers aged 29-33 recording 106 or more receptions.
- 15 receivers have had at least one season with 106+ receptions
- 7 receivers have had at least two seasons with 106+ receptions
The final part of my research will look at Brown’s touchdown totals. Brown scored 12 touchdowns last season but the mark I am most interested in researching is 10 touchdowns. If Brown can reach double digit touchdowns, whether it be 10, 12 or more throughout his late twenties and early thirties, it will be hard to build a case against him. Here’s what history told me for Brown’s chances of scoring double digit touchdowns throughout his age 29-33 seasons.
- 46 receivers have had at least one season with 10+ touchdowns
- 12 receivers have had at least two seasons with 10+ touchdowns
- 5 receivers have had at least three seasons with 10+ touchdowns
- 3 receivers have had at least four seasons with 10+ touchdowns
- 2 receivers (Jerry Rice & Marvin Harrison) have had 10+ touchdowns in every season from age 29 to 33
With all the data compiled, perhaps now it is time to come to a fair conclusion. Is it likely that Brown surpasses 2000 yards receiving in a season during his time remaining as a Steeler? Probably not, but if there is a receiver capable of doing it, Brown is one of them. Is it more likely that Brown continues to have highly productive seasons that place him at the top of the charts? The research says yes, it is very likely that Brown can continue to perform at a high level of success. Not only does the Steelers front office have the confidence in Brown replicating his success, but history does as well and that should be enough to make a believer out of anyone.