Putting the context upfront, Cam Heyward said Antonio Brown is the most talented teammate he’s ever had and he’s talking on-field only. Because while the last several years of Brown’s career and frankly, his life, have been a sad story, when Brown was a Steeler, no one earned more accolades than him.
Heyward appeared on Colin Cowherd’s The Herd and was asked which Steeler was the most talented player he’s ever played alongside of. And his answer was AB.
“The easy pick is Ben because he’s so competitive at everything he does,” Heyward started off by saying. “But I have to say, when I saw this man work, Antonio Brown, I was amazed at how he worked because he would work night and day every time. There were so many times they had to pull the reins back on him because he just had an addiction for trying to get better.”
Again, talking strictly on-field talent here. And Heyward’s answer is the correct one. Brown combined his talent with an unbeatable work ethic. After a long day of training camp practice, Brown would be the first to hop on the JUGS machine and catch over 100 passes. In 2018, I spent four post-practices counting the number of passes he caught and it was more than 500 over that span. And they were from all different angles: high, low, reaching away from his body, and he’d catch many of them one-handed.
Brown’s conditioning was elite and, like Jerry Rice, separated him from others late in games. Brown was the same guy in the fourth quarter as he was in the first. And the numbers prove that.
From 2013 to 2018, Brown led the NFL in fourth quarter receptions (176), yards (2,607), and touchdowns (20), easily the most of any receiver in football. For comparison’s sake, no other receiver had more than 155 such receptions, 2,430 yards, or 17 touchdowns.
Brown was also a great punt returner who took pride in his craft. Heyward said he didn’t take those practice reps off either.
“I’ll take one drill in particular. It’s a punt return and most guys catch the ball and then they’re throwing it back to the punter, the kicker. But what AB would always do, he would finish every single rep in the end zone. He would sprint constantly…AB did it every single time and it’s set the precedent. Everybody knew when you go against AB you better go 100 percent because you know he’s gonna show out every single time and you might be better because of it.”
Brown averaged 9.4 yards per punt return in his career with four punt returns for touchdowns. Of course, his first ever NFL touch was a kick-return touchdown, a trick-play reverse in his first game, Week 2 of the 2010 season against the Tennessee Titans.
That’s what made Brown the best receiver in football. No one goes from sixth rounder from Central Michigan to such heights by accident. Brown got bigger, stronger, faster, and put in the time to become the best in the league. It makes his downfall all the more tragic, but there’s no debate about the player he was at his peak. His work ethic and talent shaped an iron-sharpens-iron mentality for the whole defense while the rest in the receiver room modeled their game and their approach after him.
Check out the full conversation with Cowherd below.