If you were still wondering prior to the start of this season whether or now Antonio Brown is worth the big contract that he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, then hopefully this game helped to provide additional information on that front, because without him on the field today, the simply would not have had much offense.
The offense totaled just 294 yards on the day, and Brown accounted for 182 yards on 11 receptions as he gets his season off on the right foot. While it may have been Jesse James with two touchdown receptions, it was Brown’s work prior to those opportunities that enabled the red-zone work.
His 182 receiving yards does not even include a 41-yard pass interference penalty that he drew in the first half. Put simply, the Steelers would have been lost—and would have lost—without him on the field.
Initial analysis looks like we have Brown targeted 11 times, making the catch every time, which is, needless to say, pretty impressive. To have double-digit targets and a 100-percent catch percentage has to be rather rare. Wes Welker caught all 13 targets in a game in 2009, and running back Matt Forte caught all 12 in a 2014 game. Jerry Rice had a 12-for-12 game in 1994, and Brian Westbrook had one in 2006. Several caught 11-for-11, and many have caught 10-for-10—including Brown twice—but the point is that it doesn’t happen all too often.
Those 11 targets included an early 50-yard reception late in the first half off of a deflected pass that he turned into a catch-and-run that finally ignited an inept offense up to that point. On the next two plays, he caught two more passes of 11 and 19 yards to set up a first and goal. And he had a 15-yard reception at the start of the drive that was negated by penalty.
The one incompletion he had, of course, was the aforementioned defensive pass interference that he drew on a deep target midway through the third quarter. That flipped the field for the offense and allowed them to score four plays later.
His biggest catch of the day, however, came late in the game. With Ben Roethlisberger flushed out of the pocket, Brown picked up on the scramble drill and drifted out to the left side after running up the left sideline.
Roethlisberger looked for him, and found him, going up over the top of two Browns defenders to bring in the ball for a 38-yard gain. On top of that, Cleveland challenged whether or not it was a catch, and lost the challenge, as well as their last timeout.
With no timeouts, the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning, and the fresh set of downs let the Steelers run out the clock to hold off a Browns comeback. I don’t think we still need to answer the question, ‘what can Brown do for you’, but he continues to provide the answer anyway.