Heading into the regular season finale, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a shot at something that has never before been achieved in NFL history. Depending upon who plays, and how much, the Steelers can against the Cleveland Browns become the first team in the history of the league to own the passing yardage, receiving yardage, and rushing yardage leaders in the same season.
Currently, only wide receiver Antonio Brown leads his category in receiving yards, the ironic part about that being that he is the only one of the three that is guaranteed not to play on Sunday. Brown is recovering from a calf injury that has seen him miss the past game and half.
But he recorded 101 receptions for 1533 and nine touchdowns in his first 13-plus games, and that may have been enough cushion to secure himself his second receiving yardage title of his career, having previously done so in 2014.
Only two players could really even be said to be within reasonable striking distance. DeAndre Hopkins is second in the league with 1378 receiving yards, but he would need 156 yards to pass Brown. He has only had that much once this season, and four times for his career.
Also in the mix is Julio Jones for the Falcons, who is not far behind Hopkins. Jones has 1364 receiving yards entering the finale, and would need 170 yards to pass Brown. He has done that once this year, and seven times in his career.
Le’Veon Bell entered Week 16 leading the league in rushing, but fell behind Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt. Gurley has already been said to be down for the season finale, and with the Chiefs having nothing to gain or lose, Hunt likely doesn’t play either.
Hunt just has one more yard than Bell’s 1291 on the ground. Gurley leads the Steelers back by 14, so Bell would only need to rush for 15 more yards to grab the rushing title should neither of them play. The fourth-place runner, LeSean McCoy, is distant at 1128 rushing yards.
Finally, there is Ben Roethlisberger, who enters the finale trailing Tom Brady by 136 passing yards. Both the Steelers and the Patriots are fighting for the number one seed, so both may be expected to go all out, though this is clearly the least likely of the three to get through.
Roethlisberger once led the league in passing yardage, tied with Drew Brees, in 2014 with 4952 passing yards. That was the same season in which Brown led the league in passing yardage. But the last time a Steelers player led the league in rushing?
Rashard Mendenhall never did it. Willie Parker never did it. Jerome Bettis never did it. Barry Foster never did it. Franco Harris never even did it. The last one to do it was ‘Bullet’ Bill Dudley in 1946. He also led the league in rushing in 1942. He rushed for 604 yards in 11 games in 1946. Whizzer White also led the league in rushing in 1938 with 567—and in interceptions with 18.
Aside from Brown, Roy Jefferson’s 1074 receiving yards in 1968 was the only other league-leading season in team history. That and Paul Moss’ 283 yards in 1933, the organization’s first year of existence. Jim Finks’ 2270 passing yards in 1955 was the only other passing yardage leader in team history.