The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will Antonio Brown land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Antonio Brown ranks 21st in NFL history in receptions. He ranks 24th in receiving yards. And he ranks tied for 24th in receiving touchdowns. Can a man who in 2021 doesn’t rank inside the top 20 of any of the major statistic receiving categories be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having played for (effectively) 11 years?
Well, Calvin Johnson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer after playing for nine seasons in the NFL, ranking 47th in receptions, 32nd in receiving yards, and tied for 24th—with Brown, and Brandon Marshall—in receiving touchdowns.
Brown may not have been quite as transcendentally exceptional as Johnson, who is probably the best wide receiver in the modern era to play for fewer than 10 seasons—and generally one of the best ever, period—but there are few who could even be brought into that conversation.
So much about being exceptional is about seeing it. Brown has superb numbers for his length of service, especially when you narrow it down to when he was actually a starter—his five-year run between 2014 and 2018 has a strong case for the greatest ever—but his greatness was almost always apparent when you actually watched him play.
Still, you can’t discuss Brown’s legacy without discussing everything that happened off the field—and even some of the stuff that happened on it, like what was perhaps the final moment of his career, running off the field disrobing after being fired mid-game.
And so the question becomes, how do you define a Hall of Fame career? Or more specifically, how will the voters? Will Brown receive his bust? Not should he, but will he?