One of the things I look for throughout a National Football League offseason is silence. There once was a period of time when a nice, quiet offseason was the norm but with social media and the 24/7 news cycle even the smallest things become news. With that in mind, I’m glad to see the Pittsburgh Steelers’ number one wide receiver has had a relatively quiet offseason.
Antonio Brown begins his first season as the ‘number one’ guy in the Steel City with departure of Mike Wallace to Miami.
Brown enters his fourth season in the black ‘n gold and is coming off of a 2012 season that even he would admit was not up to his standards. He missed three games due to injury and wound up with 66 receptions after recording 69 the year before when he played all 16 games. In 2011, Brown was selected to the Pro Bowl after he racked up over 1,000 yards receiving and over 1,000 yards in kick and punt returns.
Regardless of what anyone tells me, I will always believe there were issues with the receiving corps last season. Brown had gotten his new deal from the team while Wallace sat out all of training camp and then sulked his way through the 2012 season. Emmanuel Sanders also looked affected by the situation as well. Both he and Brown had moments that lacked focus last year and I think that focus is back this season.
The question that plagues Brown is whether or not he is a true number one wide receiver in the NFL. Honestly? I don’t think it matters in the Todd Haley offensive system where smaller, quicker wide receivers run shorter routes and use their speed rather than their size. If we are still talking about the Bruce Arians system then I would say ‘no’ to his being a number one guy.
Brown now finds himself in the position Mike Wallace did a couple of years ago. In order for him to be successful, he will need Sanders, rookie Markus Wheaton and whoever opens the season at tight end to make plays. Much like Brown did for Wallace, playing effectively from the other receiving spot on the field will limit double-teams. I like Brown against most corners in the league one-on-one, but if he is doubled, that will cause problems for him.
Despite a few ESPN bits early in the offseason, I think Brown is primed and ready for a big year. While much of the talk has been about the rookies, the offensive line and of course ‘hatgate,’ Brown has been considerably quiet and that sends good vibes my way. It tells me he is getting after it as I would expect he would.
As the unquestioned leader of the receiveing corps now, I look for Brown to have another 1,000 yard receiving season in the ‘Burgh as long his health remains and the other receivers do their part as well.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.