Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made the mildly controversial decision during the regular season finale to rest five healthy starters across the offensive and defensive sides of the ball ahead of a bye week in the first round of the playoffs in spite of the fact that the top seed in the conference was still in play.
Such players as Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Cameron Heyward will have had 20 days off since their last taste of action, last Monday on Christmas Day. The next game they play will take placed on either the 14th of January.
For one of their Killer Bs, however, it will have been a much longer rest. All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown was not a healthy scratch yesterday, but rather is recuperating from a calf injury that he suffered on December 17 in the first half of a late game against the Patriots.
It will have been nearly a full month since he last made should Brown be able to successfully return for the Steelers following the bye week to play in the Divisional Round at Heinz Field as they host the top remaining seed from the Wildcard Round.
But it also has been 14 days since he last played, and yet he still outpaced the rest of the NFL in receiving yardage such that nobody even came particularly close to surpassing the mark of 1533 yards that he accumulated by the time he exited his 14th game of the season in the first half.
Heading into the game against the Patriots, Brown had 99 receptions for 1509 yards and nine touchdown receptions. He was on pace to finish the season with 122 receptions for 1857 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he only added two receptions and 24 yards to his total prior to the injury.
With DeAndre Hopkins idle for the regular season finale, any hope of passing Brown rested upon the shoulders of Julio Jones, who once bested Brown in a year that the latter had 1834 receiving yards. Jones entered yesterday’s game with 1364 yards, but came out only adding 80 yards to the total, finishing with 1444 yards, thus coming 90 yards shy of passing him.
He was the only player to finish within 100 receiving yards of Brown’s total in spite of the fact that Brown missed roughly 10 percent of the season. For the second year in a row, however, his idle status at the end of the year cost him the receptions title.
Brown’s receiving title in 2017 is now the second in his career. He previously led the season in receiving yardage in 2014 with 1599 yards. That year, Roethlisberger also tied for the league lead in passing yards. That was the only time since Jim Finks in 1955, and second time ever, that a Steelers player led in passing yardage.
Brown has at least 1499 receiving yards in four of the past five seasons. Over that span, he has caught 582 passes for 7848 yards and 52 touchdowns.