Antonio Brown’s stat line from Sunday against the New England Patriots was one of the more unremarkable of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ perennial All-Pro finishing the game with just four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown.
It was the first game all season in which he failed to catch at least five passes, an unfortunate coincidence given that he needed exactly five passes to surpass Wes Welker for the most receptions in a six-season span in NFL history, but he has at least one game more to do it, if not two.
He has also posted two of his three worst yardage totals of the season in the past two weeks, this after recording his biggest game of the year against the Chargers with 10 receptions for 154 yards and a score. He had just 35 yards last week.
But there again was that touchdown. Yet another for Brown, his 13th of the season. He has caught at least one touchdown in 11 of the Steelers’ 14 games this season, and he leads the league in the category. Davante Adams and Eric Ebron are tied for second with 12.
This is the second time in Brown’s career in which he has recorded at least 13 touchdown receptions in a season, previously having done it during a huge year in 2014 in which he caught 129 passes for 1698 yards.
He would go on to catch 136 passes for 1834 yards a year later, but was stuck on just 10 touchdowns. In 2016, he recorded 12 more scores, and then another nine last year while missing the final two and a half games. He was injured on a play that could have been his 10th.
Brown is more and more approaching Hines Ward’s career numbers. His 823 receptions are 177 behind Ward’s 1000. He just joined the 11,000-yard club and is 1061 yards behind Ward there. His 72 career receiving touchdowns are now just 13 behind as well. And he is the only player in franchise history to catch 13 touchdowns in a single season, having done so now twice.
Through his first four seasons, in 54 games played and 27 starts, Brown had just 15 receiving touchdowns to his name. He has been on a completely different pace since then. Still with two more games to add to his total, he has 57 receiving touchdowns in the past five seasons.
That is the most in the NFL by a wide margin, DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans being in second during that time with 45. Only 16 players as of this writing have at least 30 touchdown receptions over the past five seasons. Notably, Odell Beckham, Jr. has 44 touchdowns, but has done so in 59 games to Brown’s 75.
In case you’re wondering, Julio Jones doesn’t even have 57 touchdowns in his entire career. After ending a long touchdown drought in 2018, he now has six on the season, giving him 49 for his career. He hasn’t had more than six since 2014.