Ever since Antonio Brown entered the league, he’s been an electrifying returner. Not only that, he’s also one of the best wide receivers in the entire NFL.
Antonio was drafted out of Central Michigan in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He mostly saw action during games in his rookie year as a kick and punt returner. He was the odd third man of the “Young Money” crew, which also consisted of Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace.
Since the departure of both Sanders and Wallace, Brown has emerged as a true #1 receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Throughout the years, Antonio has been the go to return man. Throughout his career, he’s averaged 9.8 yards on punts and 25 yards on kick returns. He’s had 3 punts returned for a touchdown and 1 kick returned for a touchdown.
Despite this, is it wise to risk the #1 receiver on a measly task such as this one?
It definitely isn’t, this shouldn’t even be a problem. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the situation the team has.
Brown himself has stated he doesn’t mind doing it, but we as fans should.
Why do the Steelers continue to expose him on punt returns? Simply because everyone else who’s tried has failed miserably.
When the Steelers drafted speedster Dri Archer in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft, they had hoped he could relieve some of Antonio Brown’s burden not only on punts, but mostly kick returns.
Archer was catastrophic on both duties. Punt returns were ruled out almost immediately, and he was later also stripped of the kick return duty as well.
Should Archer’s incompetence continue, that could mean trouble for Brown.
With every punt he continues to return, the more likely the chance he has of getting hurt. If Brown goes down, we can kiss the playoffs and Super Bowl contention goodbye.
Other than drafting another specialist (believe me, we don’t want to spend another draft pick on one), the only other option I see happening is the continued development of Dri Archer.
He must continue to improve, for Antonio’s sake. Archer has to take the reins from Brown on punt returns.
The Steelers have a huge decision to make. When it comes to Antonio Brown and punt returns, do the pros truly outweigh the cons?
Stat are courtesy of NFL.com and Steelers.com