Not that it is necessarily particularly crucial to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ success or failure—though there tends to be a correlation—I can’t help but find myself wondering what the rest of the season is going to look like for wide receiver Antonio Brown with respect to his production, relative to a number of unstable variables.
As it almost perennially the case, the Steelers eighth-year pass catcher finds himself atop many of the league’s receiving statistics once again. And it’s in large part thanks to the big game that he just had on Friday, catching 10 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, thereby doubling his scores for the season.
His 70 receptions on the year to this point is the most in the league, by one, just edging out Larry Fitzgerald. But his 1026 receiving yards is far out of everybody else’s reach at the moment, with nobody else even being within 100 yards. Only one other player even currently has 900 receiving yards.
After struggling to get into the end zone often enough, his six total receiving touchdowns on the year does rank tied for their with a large number of other players. Only DeAndre Hopkins’ nine touchdowns and Will Fuller’s seven are more. That is a lot of touchdown passes in Houston.
It goes on, of course. He and Adam Thielen are tied for the most explosive plays on the year with 16, while Brown’s five catches of 40 yards or more are second only to Brandin Cooks of the Patriots, who I believe just had two such receptions yesterday for New England. Only Hopkins has more receptions for first downs.
And Brown’s 14.7 yards per reception—on 70 receptions—just goes to show how efficient he has been per reception this year. It is his highest figure in that statistic since he entered the starting lineup in his third season, and the second-highest of his entire career, the highest being in 2011 when he broke out in his second season.
But is this the path forward? By Brown’s standards, this year has been somewhat feast or famine, with five 100-yard games and five games of 70 yards or fewer, including two under 50 yards. He either catches a bunch of passes for a bunch of yards or has five or fewer, often with under 70 yards.
The Steelers at the moment still have to resolve just what their identity is on offense going forward. Is this Ben Roethlisberger’s offense to command? Will they run through Le’Veon Bell? How big a role is JuJu Smith-Schuster to play going forward after having nearly 300 yards over a two-game span? And what about Martavis Bryant?
Overall, there are a lot of things to consider. But just the fact that he can have a season like last year, with 106 receptions for 1284 yards, and have it be regarded as a down year, is just a testament to how good he has been during this stretch.