The Pittsburgh Steelers have the single most impressive trio of offensive players in the entire NFL. There is a bit of debate over this, but there shouldn’t be. The trio of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and running back Le’Veon Bell can potentially rival some of the all-time greats, though their window seems to be closing fast, Brown the only one with an open-ended conclusion to his Steelers career.
The wide receiver was just voted by his peers as the second-best player in all of football, behind only Tom Brady, the only quarterback in NFL history to ever win the Super Bowl five times. And according to Adam Schein, he is one of the most indispensable skill position players in the entire league.
Indispensable doesn’t necessarily mean greatest, and greatest doesn’t necessarily mean indispensable. Brown is indispensable in the sense that removing him from the Steelers’ roster would greatly affect their competitiveness and how far they are able to go in the postseason.
That is the rubric Schein used in compiling a list of the nine most indispensable skill position players on the offensive side of the ball, with Brown coming in at number six on the list. The five players that were included ahead of him, in order, were Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, DeAndre Hopkins, and Todd Gurley.
Just as a side note, it’s interesting that three of the top five most indispensable skill position players, at least in one writer’s opinion, are running backs, including the two at the top. If they’re that indispensable, then perhaps their compensation should reflect that. And they likely will.
Schein did mention Bell in the article as well. “I love Le’Veon Bell”, he wrote. “I wish he had received a long-term deal. Now? Who knows when he’s going to show up…”. It almost sounds as though he would have also been included on the list had the Steelers been able to complete a deal.
You might guess that his entry on the list for Brown also mentioned Bell. “I always struggle putting a Steeler on this list, because it’s very difficult to separate Brown and Le’Veon Bell”, he wrote. “Each has a legit claim to being the best NFL player at his position. But Brown has been the model of consistency and domination”.
He pointed to Brown’s statistics over the last five years, each of which includes at least 100 receptions for at least 1200 yards and at least nine touchdowns. In most years, he comfortably exceeded those baseline figures, topping 1499 yards in four of those five years and boasting at least 110 receptions three times.
Interestingly enough, the Steelers nearly advanced to the AFC Championship game in 2015 without both Brown and Bell, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions. Of course, they never would have even been in that position in the first place without those two generational talents.
I realize that this topic has become somewhat rote nine years into Brown’s remarkable career, but I do think it’s important that we don’t start to take it for granted. Think about it this way: a decade from now, we might not have a wide receiver to write articles like this about. So just appreciate that they’re here.