There’s no question to Steelers’ Nation that Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are at the top of their position. But it’s nice to hear the why, especially from those who play the game. For the Players’ Tribune, Ryan Shazier listed the five toughest guys he’s faced and both those names made the list.
On Brown, Shazier said it all comes down to a supreme work ethic.
“He wants to beat you more than anybody I know in the NFL. Way more. Way, way, way more. There is something inside of him that I’ve never seen in another player. After practice, you’ll see all the guys running in, and AB will be out there catching balls on the Jugs machine. Boom. Boom. Boom.
But. But! There’s levels to this. A lot of guys will stay out an extra 20 minutes hitting the sled or the Jugs or the bag just to show the coaches that they’re putting in the work. The difference with AB is that every single rep, he’s going 100%.”
Brown is – at absolute worst – a top three receiver in the league and for my money, and probably yours, the best in the NFL.
Even in a “down” year last season, he still hauled in 106 receptions for nearly 1300 yards and twelve touchdowns. By the end of the season, he’ll have over 700 career catches, 9000 yards, and may touch 60 touchdowns. Soon enough, he’ll break every single Steelers’ receiving record. By the end of his career, it’s probable he’ll be a top ten receiver, all-time, in receptions and yards.
To a more nuanced point, Shazier explained what makes Brown so good.
“The only way I can explain it is that the sharpest route runners — guys like AB, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton — they don’t “elaborate” on their breakdowns. They don’t sell it. They’re economical. There’s no exaggeration. They just plant one foot, and it’s like they teleport two steps away from you.”
The news on Bell over the last week has been less than stellar. The debate over if he should’ve accepted the Steelers’ long-term deal, when he’ll decide to show up for training camp. But we can’t forget how good he is, the best back in the league because who is the most complete. Shazier knows as well as anyone.
“He’s not just a running back, though. He’s a wide receiver and a running back. Le’Veon is going to get his rushing yards, but if you start stacking up the box, he’ll motion out of you and start playing receiver. But he’s not a decoy — he’s killing you out there.”
That’s the same argument Bell is making to reach a mega contract, perhaps up to $15 million per season. Since entering the league in 2013, Bell’s 227 receptions are second most on the Steelers, only trailing Brown. For backs league-wide, he ranks second to Matt Forte’s 250 catches. And for all positions, Bell ranks
Of course, the most common discussion with Bell last year revolved around his patience and ability. The difference is that Le’Veon has the vision and the patience, but he also has the physical tools to stop-and-start like nobody else in the NFL. Most running backs don’t want to stop their feet and load back up behind the line of scrimmage. But with Le’Veon, he can be almost standing still, then do his jump-cut and slip through a tiny hole at full speed. to wait for holes to open up.
Shazier concludes that Bell is “changing the position” and that you’ll see a lot more in the mold of him over the next decade. Ryan Shazier: great linebacker. Pretty good agent.
The rest of the list includes the best offensive line, tight end, and linebacker he’s watched/faced. There is a Baltimore Raven on this list too so Shazier isn’t going full-homer here. We’ll link it again. Worth your time not only to get his opinion but he delves into some solid X’s and O’s for you football junkies out there.