Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown got mad a couple of weeks ago after a former team employee suggested that it was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who had made him who he is, suggesting that if he were to be traded to another team, he wouldn’t put up the same kind of numbers he has over the past half a decade.
After he cooled down, he did speak to the media, apologizing for how he responded to the claim, and acknowledged that his success does depend on others—after all, somebody has to throw him the football—but the reality is that he is also at the lowest point of his pairing with Roethlisberger that he has ever had in his career.
For the first time ever over a three-game span with Roethlisberger at quarterback, he has been held to under 70 yards in each game. Following a five-catch, 62-yard night, he has just 179 yards in the past three games on 20 receptions, though he does have two touchdowns. He had 67 yards in Week Two and just 50 in Week Three.
The last time he had fewer than 70 yards over a three-game span was in 2015, and as you might be able to guess, that span came during a Roethlisberger injury. He suffered an injury in Week Three against the St. Louis Rams and then put up 42, 45, and 24 yards over the course of the three games that followed. He had just 12 catches and no scores.
Those were the three games that Mike Vick started. Landry Jones took over in the second half of that third game, and started the next, with Brown putting up 124 yards and a touchdown on six receptions, so, uh…Vick was not good.
What’s astounding is that the year before that, Brown didn’t have fewer than 72 yards in any single game that entire year. He put up 1698 yards on 129 receptions, and he also had at least five catches in every single game. Roethlisberger played every game.
You would have to go all the way back to 2012, Brown’s first year as a starter, to find the previous time that he was held to under 70 yards in three consecutive games. And that comes with a caveat, because it was broken up by a midseason ankle injury. And Roethlisberger was also injured for a part of that span.
So you can legitimately say that what we are seeing between the two right now is unprecedented in their history, which is pretty striking. While I feel it’s important to note that they have connected for three touchdowns on two fantastic passes, we have simply never seen them struggle to connect like this.
Not even as a rookie. He may have only had 16 catches that year as the fifth receiver, but he was only targeted 19 times. So the question that necessarily follows is this: how much longer will these struggles continue?