Antonio Brown has never had a problem rising above his peers. Since he first reached the height of his game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team has surrounded him with capable to very good complementary wide receivers, but it hasn’t been until this season that any has ever significantly threatened to outclass him statistically.
11 games into the 2018 regular season, second-year JuJu Smith-Schuster, who figures to go over 2000 career receiving yards on Sunday, leads the Steelers in both receptions and receiving yards, with 77 for 1055 to Brown’s 71 for 874. Brown does have an 11-to-4 advantage in touchdowns, which is as many as any player has in the league.
But if you ask Smith-Schuster, even his own success is much of Brown’s doing. As he told reporters yesterday, Brown is “getting double-teamed, triple-teamed. It’s hard, you know? But he still makes his plays”. And he and others “are being able to eat off his plate because of what he’s done in the past”.
There’s no better example of that than Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown on Sunday, on which the Denver Broncos rolled over safety coverage to Brown’s side, leaving the second-year receiver one-on-one. If Brown ever sees that, and it’s not by accident, it’s incredibly rare.
As far as there being any tensions whatsoever on the team from Brown or anybody else relating to the All-Pro’s less than stellar (but still very good) numbers, he said, “there’s no consideration about me having better numbers…If you are asking if there’s a problem between me and AB and any of the other guys, that’s not happening. Obviously, we are trying to strive for one goal”.
Anybody reading this will already know what Brown has accomplished in his career. He just became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 800 receptions and was among the fastest to 10,000 career receiving yards. He is one of only little more than a dozen players to reach 75 touchdowns in this first nine seasons.
Smith-Schuster still has years and years to go before he can begin to claim the sort of prestige that Brown enjoys for his accomplishments, and he knows it, even if he also knows that he is off to a very good start in his career. And he also knows what Brown has contributed to that start.
“He’s helped me out a lot”, he said of his elder. “We always talk about just making each other better. Every day I go out and practice, I try and be the best I can be on the field, competing against him”. And it’s not the first time he’s credited Brown with helping him in his craft.
Because of their success, the Steelers have one of the top offenses this year and are set to have their first pair of 1000-yard receivers since 2011. Smith-Schuster is already there, and on-pace for over 1500 yards, but you know Brown will get there as well.