If there is anything that we have not been lacking over the course of the past two weeks, it has been discussion over Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. We already know the many angles from which his situation has been discussed, including the decision to exclude him from the All-Pro team.
One theme that has recently surfaced, however, has been the idea that he is not a crisp route runner. Peter King recently said that, and he was evidently told that by Aditi Kinkabwala, who appeared on his podcast. She quoted Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith on that topic.
“There is no player that is more complicated to cover because he doesn’t do anything traditionally”, she said in citing Smith. “He’s out there making stuff up, Ben is pump-faking, and somehow finds him. And they will both tell you, there is no one that I have ever been around in 10 years of covering the NFL that improvises together that these two men do”.
While it’s true that many of the biggest plays that Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have made, not just this year but also over the years, have been a product of Roethlisberger making a play and Brown putting himself in a position to get to it, the argument that he is not a crisp route runner is still difficult to buy.
Needless to say, we watch a fair amount of Brown here, and we have plenty of clips of him running routes in our weekly game breakdowns. Often enough, we feature plays in which his route-running is so crisp and precise that he leaves the defensive back with broken ankles and emerging wide open.
So while I certainly buy the argument that a lot of the pair’s success is attributable to them making things happen after the initial play breaks down, one can’t conclude from that that it’s because Brown didn’t run a crisp enough route in the first place. Frankly, Roethlisberger is often too slow to pull the trigger, which is why he has to extend as many plays as he does.
“If Antonio Brown goes to the Jets, there’s no way that Sam Darnold is going to be able to do that”, Kinkhabwala said of having the post-script rapport with the wide receiver. “if Antonio Brown goes to the Patriots, there’s no way Tom Brady is putting up with that nonsense. He’ll say ‘be where you’re supposed to be at the time you’re supposed to be there’”.
“He 100 percent does not want to go right now”, she also said of Brown regarding a possible trade. “He recognizes that, acknowledges that, he is not looking to be traded. He does not want to leave”. She said that she believes the current situation is a power struggle between the quarterback and the wide receiver.
I would be curious to know where this discussion about the crispness of his route-running has emerged from, because frankly it’s not one that I’ve ever seen discussed in the national media previously. In fact, he has in the past been well-regarded as one of the sharpest route-runners in the league.