We know that wide receiver Antonio Brown is really good. We know (well, most of us seem to know) that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is really good too. And we also know that the two are easily at their best when they are working in unison to drive the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.
While their relationship can sometimes be problematic for the offense—Roethlisberger has conceded that he is occasionally too reliant on his favored target and puts balls in dangerous positions as a result of that—the rapport and production that the two share is arguably unmatched by any other due in the NFL.
That is perhaps best personified by the number of passes and catches between the pair that spark the sort of ‘wow’ reaction that coaxes such plays onto the highlight reels, and the 2017 season was filled with a number of such plays, even with Brown’s truncated campaign that was shortened at the end of the regular season due to a calf injury—even if he picked up where he left off in the postseason.
So it is no surprise then that both Roethlisberger and Brown landed on Matt Harmon’s lists of the best tight-window quarterbacks and wide receivers, respectively, in the NFL, lists that he published late last week on the league’s website.
In the website’s ‘Next Gen Stats’, a ‘tight-window throw’ is regarded as one in which the target has less than a yard of separation from the defender, and I imagine we can all agree that Roethlisberger and Brown have experienced their fair share of such targets.
Roethlisberger was listed as fifth on the list, ranking ninth in completion percentage on such throws (38.9), seventh in passer rating (66.9), and eighth in adjusted yards per attempt (5.28). Those numbers may sound low, but these are throws with a low success rate by nature.
“Big Ben led all quarterbacks this past year with 10 tight-window touchdown passes”, Harmon wrote. “He was more aggressive this season, as well, chucking 19.4 percent of his throws to receivers with less than a yard of separation, after doing so on just 14.7 percent of his throws (29th-most) in 2016”. He noted that he threw six interceptions on tight-window throws, four of which came against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the regular season, which badly hurt his numbers.
As for Brown, he ranked sixth among wide receivers with a 40.9 percent catch rate (12th-best), a 65.8 passer rating when targeted (15th), and 16.3 yards per catch (15th).
“Brown is one of the best contested-catch receivers despite checking in at just 5-10”, Harmon wrote of the Steelers receiver. “Size doesn’t matter when you’re one of the most detailed in your timing and technique at the catch point”.
As in Roethlisberger’s case, he noted that Brown’s numbers suffered from the Jacksonville game, during which the quarterback threw three interceptions while targeting him in tight windows. Harmon concluded of the All-Pro receiver, “the NFL audience is witnessing the apex of a truly special career from Brown in his current form”.