Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was not producing in the manner in which he had become accustomed at the beginning of the regular season. While part of that was due to his lack of reps in training camp and the preseason due to injury, a lot of that was about Ben Roethlisberger struggling to give him quality targets.
Much of that has turned around over the course of the past three games, including today, with Brown leading the team in all receiving categories with six receptions on eight targets for 74 yards and two touchdowns. It was his third game with multiple touchdowns of the year.
All of the Steelers’ scoring via the touchdown came through Brown and James Conner, who have combined for 15 scores on the year, and both of them are on pace to set new franchise records with respect to touchdowns through the air and on the ground, respectively.
74 yards might not sound like a feast for Brown—he has seasons in which he has averaged more than 100 receiving yards per game—but placing it in a more realistic perspective in comparison to the rest of the league, it’s impossible not to view this as another strong game for the perennial Pro Bowler.
And that is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that he had just zero yards after his first two receptions, both of them bubble screens. The first gained one yard, the second lost it. Then his third catch (and target went for 15, the Steelers’ first first down of the game, and also the first conversion on third down—third and 11, on this occasion.
It was three plays after that first down that Roethlisberger found Brown down the left sideline for a breakaway 43-yard catch and run for a touchdown, which gave the Steelers their first points and a 7-6 lead that they never relinquished. Brown didn’t run a go route, but rather worked to the left flat before turning up the field, the coverage losing him.
Roethlisberger didn’t go back to Brown until the last play of the first half. After he converted a fourth-and-one pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 15 seconds to go from the four-yard line, they set up an inside screen for Brown to score from one yard out.
He was only targeted three times in the second half, with one 15-yard completion on second and eight. The other two fell for incompletions, one on a long deep pass that was overthrown which he nearly caught anyway. The other was a third-down slant on which Denzel Ward made a great defense.
The most important element of the game is the fact that it has continued a trend of Brown seeing a higher percentage of quality targets. And he has been doing a better job of maximizing them as well, now leading the league with eight receiving touchdowns.