Pro Football Focus has been posting daily articles of their Top 32 at each position. Ben Roethlisberger came in 16th at quarterback, Najee Harris 20th at running back. But despite wide receiver being arguably the strongest collective group on offense, no individual wideout cracked their list of the Top 32 for 2021. No JuJu Smith-Schuster, no Diontae Johnson, and no Chase Claypool.
To an extent, that’s fair. Looking at the list, there are still ultra-talented wideouts at the bottom. Tyler Boyd at #32, Brandin Cooks at #26. Receiver is probably the deepest position in the league, especially considering how strong the last couple of draft classes have been. And no Steelers’ receiver had an amazing 2020 season. The team’s throw-short offense hampered JuJu Smith-Schuster’s numbers. Diontae Johnson struggled with drops. Chase Claypool’s production was hit-and-miss.
Still, PFF included some debatable names over the Steelers’ young guns. Deebo Samuel came in at #31 despite having 90 career catches and just 33 in an injury-shortened 2020. The Rams’ Robert Woods got the nod at #29 while PFF included DeVante Parker #27 despite having a down year.
But most curiously of all, former Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown makes the list, coming in above all those aforementioned names at #24. Here’s what author Anthony Treash wrote:
“All things considered, Brown performed quite well in 2020 after playing in just one game over nearly two years. He earned an 82.6 receiving grade on the year, including the Bucs’ postseason run, and he did it in an unorthodox manner relative to the rest of his career. Brown was utilized on more underneath concepts than in any other season of his NFL tenure and posted a career-low 9.4-yard average depth of target.
He added value after the catch with 5.2 additional yards on average, breaking eight tackles while also displaying sure hands. Brown caught 98% of his catchable targets and hauled in eight of 11 contested targets.”
Last year for the Bucs, Brown caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns. A much different looking career, as Treash points out, than what he did in Pittsburgh. Though Brown did play well and found the end zone in their Super Bowl win over Kansas City, ranking him in the top 32 over so much more productive talent is a major stretch.
Leaving any of the Steelers’ receivers off this list doesn’t violate the Geneva Convention, I promise. You can make a case none of them have quite earned that spot. But this list in general is all over the place. Putting someone like Brown ahead of Pittsburgh’s top three guys and a whole host of other names feels inaccurate. But that’s what you get when the guy who writes the list apparently forgets Randy Moss, Bob Hayes, and a half-dozen other players ever existed.