Since the 1970 merger, no Pittsburgh receiver -- and there have been some pretty darn good ones -- had led the NFL in receiving yards until Antonio Brown in 2014. He is the +600 favorite on 5Dimes to repeat in 2015. Is that a smart bet? Let's examine.
Best Chippewa NFL Player Ever?
One of the greatest value draft picks this decade... no, century... was Pittsburgh selecting unknown receiver Antonio Brown in the sixth round (No. 195 overall) out of Central Michigan in 2010. Can you even tell me where Central Michigan is located? What conference it plays in? The answers: Mount Pleasant and the Mid-American Conference.
All Brown has done is set a franchise record for most receptions (390), receiving yards (5,259) and all-purpose yards (7,755) in a player's first five seasons with Pittsburgh. Last year, he nearly won the receiving Triple Crown. Brown led the NFL with 129 catches (second in history) and 1,698 yards (No. 6 all-time). He finished tied for second with 13 touchdown catches, three behind league leader Dez Bryant. All three totals set Pittsburgh Steelers records as did his eight 100-yard games and 106.1 receiving yards per game. Brown also added nine catches for 117 yards in the playoff upset home loss to Baltimore.
Brown, a first-team All-Pro, became the first player in team history to record back-to-back seasons with at least 110 receptions and first player in Steelers history to have at least 1,400 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons.
Entering the 2015 season, Brown has two active streaks that are NFL records: consecutive regular-season games with at least five receptions and 50 receiving yards (33), and consecutive regular-season games with at least five receptions and 70 receiving yards (18). He set an NFL record with at least 80 receiving yards in 14 straight regular-season games. Brown tied a league mark set by Hall of Famer and Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin (1995) with at least five receptions and 80 receiving yards in each of the first nine games of a season last year.
So, yeah, Brown is pretty good. And it's not like the guy is a physical specimen like the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson. Brown is only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds.
Wants To Be G.O.A.T.
Brown isn't resting on his laurels, either. He wants to go down as the greatest of all-time.
"That's exactly my mindset," said Brown, who was a finalist for the "Madden NFL 16" cover, which went to New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. "I want to be special. Things are different now. I'm not that sixth-round pick anymore."
Obviously having a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger helps Brown's cause. Brown got 181 targets from Big Ben last year. That's nearly 30 percent of the team's passing game. The last player to repeat as the NFL's receiving yardage leaders was Detroit's Johnson in 2011-12. "Megatron" set the NFL record with 1,964 in '12. He had the benefit of playing in a very pass-heavy offense with all of his team's home games in the nice climate-controlled dome. Brown obviously doesn't have that playing at Heinz Field. There are going to be some nasty weather games in Pittsburgh. Plus the Steelers are still going to be running the ball plenty with Le'Veon Bell, who was named the team's MVP last season.
Now, I could see Brown getting more balls thrown his way the first two weeks because Bell is suspended for those. But the Steelers also have some other good talent at receiver in guys such as Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant; on the bright side for the Steelers, that makes it harder to double-team Brown. When Johnson set that NFL mark, he was pretty much all the Lions had at the position (now they have a good No. 2 in Golden Tate).
NFL Free Pick: He is the +600 NFL odds favorite on 5Dimes to repeat as receiving yards leader and the Steelers are throwing more these days than they ever had, but I don't think Brown repeats in this category.