Pro Football Focus wrapped up its Top 101 Players of the 2010s list yesterday. In the final tally, seven players who either played the vast majority of their careers in Pittsburgh or played through their rookie contract with the Steelers were featured on the list. And the only one who cracked the top 25 might as well be the Mad Hatter.
That would be Antonio Brown, a former perennial first-team All-Pro wide receiver whose absence from the league right now stems only from his only inability to control what he says and does off the field. There is no denying the greatness of what he brought to the field when he played. But there’s a reason nobody is banging on his door.
Be that as it may, the former sixth-round draft pick landed at the number 13 spot, second among all wide receivers (Julio Jones was eighth) and third among all skill positions (Rob Gronkowski ranked fifth, behind only Tom Brady, Aaron Donald, Drew Brees, and Richard Sherman). Sam Monson writes:
The last year or so of drama and controversy has left Brown out in the wilderness, but while he was playing, he was as productive as any receiver in football. Only Julio Jones has a higher yards per route run figure than Brown’s 2.46 over the decade, and he has the fourth-lowest drop rate over that time at just 4.1%. Brown is one of just three players to amass over 10,000 receiving yards over the decade, and he has at least 14 more touchdowns than either of the other players to break that barrier (Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald). Antonio Brown right now is an NFL pariah, but he was one of the best receivers the game had ever seen when he was on the field.
There was a time that Brown was the most popular man in Pittsburgh. He was the good kid, self-made, who persevered through adversity and the highly marketable slogan, ‘chest up, eyes up, prayed up’. Whether he changed over time or at some level had always been the person he currently is, I can’t say.
But this list isn’t about the top 101 people in the NFL over the past decade. It’s about on-field success, and there’s no doubt that Brown was among the greatest players in the league during the past 10 years. All one has to do is look at his numbers.
If he never plays another down, he will finish his career with 841 receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdown receptions. He recorded six consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions, by far an NFL record, topping 1200 yards in each of those years as well.
During that six-year span, he recorded 686 catches for 9145 yards and 67 touchdowns. That’s an average of 114.3 catches per year for 1524.2 yards and 11.2 touchdowns. Averaged. Over a six-year span. Ridiculous. Exceptional. Exceptionalism.