Entering the 2014 NFL Draft, many Pittsburgh Steelers fans wanted their team to take full advantage of what was regarded as one of the deepest draft classes among wide receivers of all time, after they lost their second and third wide receivers from the season before, even though they drafted a receiver in the third round the year before.
The ideal target for many was Odell Beckham, Jr., but he ended up going high in the first round, far out of the Steelers’ reach. They did come away with Martavis Bryant in the fourth round, a remarkable talent who has had more than his fair share of troubles, but who could be in for a big year in 2017.
That doesn’t mean that Antonio Brown doesn’t spend a good deal of time with Beckham, whom he considers a personal friend. Arguably two of the three top wide receivers in the NFL currently, the pair, five years apart, share notes about how to beat NFL cornerbacks.
The perennial Pro Bowlers’ friendship and natural competitiveness fuel one another to be even greater. Brown told Jeremy Fowler via ESPN that he knows we are in an era of the game at the wide receiver position in which “everybody’s coming”.
“That’s what makes the game competitive and amazing”, he said. “A guy like Odell Beckham is a game-changing guy, trying to unlock the codes. One of my close friends. I always tell him, keep coming”. And he has. The young wide receiver has improved his numbers in each of his first three seasons.
Brown is himself on somewhat of a run of historic proportions if you look at his numbers over the course of the past three or four seasons. His primary individual target is another 100-reception season, which would make him the first player in NFL history to do so in five consecutive years. Only a couple of players have ever done it in total for their entire career.
The seventh-year Steeler managed to accomplish that task last season without even playing the final game of the regular season. He would have no doubt finish the year with the league lead in receptions had he not rested in the finale, which held no meaning for the Steelers regarding playoff seeding.
Brown said that he and Beckham “share information” with one another, notes and details about how to win one-on-one matchups and things like that, though he would not reveal any specific details. “If you want to be the best, you have to strive to be the best and sponge off everything”, he said of collaborating with the Giants wide receiver.
There are not many other players in the game currently who could make the case that they are the best wide receiver. Julio Jones may indeed well be. A couple of others such as A.J. Green, Mike Evans, or Jordy Nelson, could throw their hat into the ring. But I don’t think many Steelers fans would even think twice about picking Brown over any of them.