Throughout their history, the Steelers have had some great wide receivers, but the most dynamic of them all might be Antonio Brown. Physically, there is nothing about Brown that stands out, nothing at least that would make him appear to be extra special. He doesn’t have the size of a Calvin Johnson, or the speed of Mike Wallace, but yet he has become the best receiver in the National Football League over the last two years. In the middle of his sixth season with the Steelers, he is already ranked third in team history in receiving yards, and fourth in receptions and is working on his third straight season with over 100 catches. It really does seem that there isn’t anything he can’t do on the football field.
|Antwaan Randle El||2002-2005,2010||5||184||2,265||12.31||63t||7|
Graph from http://www.footballdb.com
What separates Brown from just about every other receiver in the NFL is his work ethic. Hard work and attention to detail is something that Hines Ward helped instill within him when he arrived in Pittsburgh as a sixth round draft pick in 2010. Brown, at that time, was part of a threesome that dubbed themselves “young money”, and while the star of that group, at the time, was Mike Wallace, it was Brown that was going to be the best of them. Brown payed close attention to the suggestions and advice that Ward gave him, and has took it to the next level. So much so, that when Mike Wallace’s contract came up, the Steelers felt the better long term investment was Antonio Brown. The Steelers gave him a hefty extension, letting Wallace walk, a decision that has payed off nicely for Brown and the Steelers.
Antonio Brown has worked very hard to achieve elite status, but he knowingly owes a large portion of his success to Ben Roethlisberger. The two of them seemingly have learned how to communicate telepathically on the field, which has led to some clutch plays and exciting moments, some that have ended in full speed front flips in the endzone, that ended with a perfect landing. Although criticized for doing his flip, it was nothing more than a spontaneous celebration, from putting the final nail in the coffin of a division rival. Besides that, it was fun to watch. Shame on you if you feel otherwise, because players like Antonio Brown are good for the game.
Antonio Brown represents all that is good about today’s NFL player. He is gracious, fan and media friendly and hard working. Above all else, he is a passionate, team first guy, and is all about winning. To some extent, all wide receivers are divas. Some though, crave the attention and won’t hesitate to create it for themselves, even if it is negative attention. Brown definitely does not fit into this category, and he’s proven it throughout his career. Amazingly though, people were quick to criticize him for being selfish, over comments he made while Ben was out injured for four games. People were also quick to judge Brown, before we even heard anything from him, when “sources” close to him suggested he would hold out of camp if he didn’t get his contract renegotiated for more money.
First of all, it only makes sense to put the ball in the hands of your best playmaker. Regardless of who is under center, you don’t ignore him. Secondly, Brown never had any intentions of holding out, those statements had to be nothing more than bad strategy by his agent. Antonio Brown deserved the benefit of the doubt in both of these instances, as he has been nothing but a true professional since the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh. As good as Brown is now, he’s barely into his prime years. In just over five and a half seasons with the Steelers, AB is already over halfway to Hines Ward’s career numbers. With the way Brown keeps raising the bar of his own expectations, he just might own virtually all the Steelers receiving records by the time Ben Roethlisberger retires.