Brown making sure Steelers don't miss Wallace
October 17, 2013 12:18 am
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For all the player defections and all the problems that led to their 1-4 start this season, one player the Steelers do not miss is wide receiver Mike Wallace. Not the way Antonio Brown is playing, they do not.
Brown not only is back from what was, for him, a disappointing 2012 season, he leads the AFC in receiving yards per game and has become so important to the Steelers they have devised new ways to deploy him.
His performance has blown away the one Wallace has displayed in Miami after the Dolphins acquired him for $60 million over five years.
Brown leads the AFC with an average of 99.6 yards receiving and 8.3 receptions per game. He has 41 catches for 498 yards and two touchdowns.
Wallace? He's not exactly lighting things up for the Dolphins with 22 receptions for 281 yards and one touchdown after leaving the Steelers as a free agent this year. In the meantime, the Steelers are trying to spring Brown into secondaries any way they can.
"We're moving him around, [throwing] short passes and long passes," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "They're doubling him. They're doing a lot of different things. It's a credit to him and the work that he's putting in to get open and to other guys. He's not open if [tight end] Heath Miller isn't creating some issues and getting attention."
Miller led the Steelers with 71 receptions in 2012, and they elected him as their MVP. Brown was MVP in 2011, when he had 1,108 yards receiving. But with Miller and Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery surrounding him in 2012, he dropped off to 787 yards, although he also missed three games.
That drop-off seemed about to continue when Brown had five catches for 71 yards in the opener and caught just two passes for 22 yards in the first half in the second game in Cincinnati. He approached coordinator Todd Haley and expressed his unhappiness over not seeing the ball more.
Since then, he has been on fire. He averaged six receptions for 61.3 yards through the first two games. Over the past three, he has averaged 113.3 yards and nearly 10 catches a game.
"I just think he gave me more opportunities and put me in position to be successful," Brown said. "Coach Haley is doing a good job of mixing up the formations, getting me inside, moving me a little bit in the slot so guys can't get a bead on me. Those are things we're going to have to do."
Roethlisberger predicted the other day that things might open up for others because defenses will pay more attention to Brown as his numbers thrive. Brown listed some of what defenses have done to try to thwart him:
"Usually, they assign a guy to press me and a guy to help over top," he said, explaining it as a true double-team where the corner stays with him the whole way, or tries to. "They try to use their hand, strike me, try to get me out of my routes."
Little of it has worked, and Brown continues his march toward what would be Steelers records for receiving yards and receptions.