Is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown currently this generations best player at his position? That’s the question the Steelers wide receiver asked Sunday on Twitter that he wants everyone to answer.
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) June 3, 2018
Specifically, Brown wants to know where everyone would rank him today, generationally speaking, if he were to never play another down.
In order to answer that question, I suppose we would need to define where Brown’s generation begins.
Since 2008, two years before Brown was even drafted by the Steelers, only two other NFL wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald (904) and Brandon Marshall (837),have more receptions than Brown currently has. Additionally, only Fitzgerald (11,001), Marshall (10,863) and Calvin Johnson (10,581) have more receiving yardage than Brown (9,910) does dating back to 2008 when it comes to wide receivers. Those three receivers, along with Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant, all currently have more touchdown receptions than Brown (59) does dating back to 2008. Since Brown was drafted in 2010, however, he leads the league in both receptions and receiving yardage, so there’s that.
What’s interesting about all of the wide receivers previously mentioned so far in this post is that only one of them, Nelson, has won a Super Bowl to date.
As far as clutch catches in key moments of games go, you will be hard-pressed to name a wide receiver who has made more of them than Brown has during his career (2010-2017). Additionally, Brown’s current catch percentage of 66.2% since arriving on he scene in 2010 is really impressive.
If Brown’s generation is said to have begun in 2000, I think he has a little ways to go before being seen as the best wide receiver in the NFL since then. After all, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, both of whom will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this summer, should be considered as part of that generation. Additionally, let’s not forget that Marvin Harrison, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame just two years ago, still holds the single-season record for most receptions. Sure Brown has come close to breaking that record a few times, but until he finally does, he’ll be tied for second place with Julio Jones at 136.
Personally, I consider Jerry Rice as part of my ongoing generation and the fact that he is currently the all-time NFL leader in receptions, receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns makes him my easy choice over Brown. Rice, by the way, was a three-time Super Bowl champion during his career and once voted Super Bowl MVP and those fact needs to included in the conversation as well, assuming I’m allowed to count him in my generational rankings.
In defense of Brown, he has already recorded at least 100 receptions in each of the last five seasons and that’s a streak that might not be broken for a while and one that the Steelers wide receiver could easily extend in the coming years as long as he stays healthy. Rice, by the way, only managed to catch 100 or more passes in a single season just four times during his 20-year NFL career.
Being a fan of the Steelers and having blogged about them dating back before Brown was even drafted, I can honestly say that I am very grateful for the opportunity to have watched him play in Pittsburgh so far. Just when I think he can’t wow me any more, he does. A few of the amazing catches he made just last season are proof of that.
If Brown is currently worried about his place in NFL history, he shouldn’t be. The stats Brown has accumulated during his first eight years in the NFL, along with his numerous highlight reel catches, might already be enough to get him into consideration for a bust in Canton should he never play another down. That said, another year or two of the same kind of production and catches we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Brown, combined with a Super Bowl championship or two, should easily make him a future Hall of Famer.
Look, Brown is not even 30 years of age just yet as that momentous birthday won’t happen until next month. In short, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. While Father Time is undefeated, he still has a lot of ground to make up before he finally hawks down Brown. There will be plenty of time in the future to discuss where Brown ranks generationally and hopefully when that time finally does come, we’ll be able to include multi-Super Bowl champion in that discussion as well.