Seeing Antonio Brown’s name pop up on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ injury report was alarming. No Yinzer wants to wonder if Brown is going to be available for an AFC North showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. Thankfully, the toe injury he suffered appears minor and it’s almost certain he’ll suit up Monday night.
For me, just associating Brown with an injury, ANY injury, was alarming. Because it’s just that rare. Despite playing a position where it’s easy to get dinged, especially with the league-leading targets Brown sees, and for being a small-ish guy, Brown, remarkably, is always healthy.
Sure, there was the concussion. Getting your brain scrambled by Vontaze Burfict doesn’t count. That’s a hit-job, not an injury. Beyond the concussion or given rest, the last time I can find Brown missing a day of practice was in 2012 when Brown missed three games with an ankle injury.
That means it’s been five years since Brown suffered a non-head injury that caused him to miss any time. And even if my research is wrong, Brown’s history of durability is as true as the sky is blue (I’d say as the Earth is round but it’s 2017 and that isn’t exactly a consensus anymore).
It’s part of what makes him great. As the old saying goes, the best ability is availability. And few are more available than Brown. Circle that back to his work ethic. Not only does the work he put in make him the best receiver from a technical standpoint, his route running, hands, body control, but he’s one of the best conditioned players in the NFL. He doesn’t succumb to hamstring pulls and ankle sprains others do. Almost every player I talk to agrees his work ethic is second to none and Mike Tomlin has consistently pointed to that as part of what makes him so effective.
Brown is far bigger than 181 pounds he’s listed at but he isn’t a big guy either. He’s weighing in somewhere around 195, still small by a top-tier receiver’s standards and on paper, vulnerable to big hits. He’s running the whole route tree, cutting into the teeth of defense’s with linebackers and safeties waiting to pounce. That lends itself to some nasty collisions. But he’s dealt with it all and not missed a beat.
It’s just part of what makes him special. He’s maximizing his talent by staying in peak shape. And it lets him dominant week after week while others sit on the sideline.