For this week's 'Sleeper of the Week', I'm going with a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers who's been impossible to overlook in recent weeks -- Antonio Brown. The second-year wide receiver and return man set a career high with nine receptions in last Sunday's win over the New England. He also registered his first career receiving touchdown and the second overall score since being drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2010 draft (he scored a TD the first time he touched the ball in the NFL on the opening kickoff of Pittsburgh's Week 3 win over Tennessee in '10). Two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7, Brown set a career high with 102 receiving yards. Brown has officially arrived and is by now on every defensive coordinator's radar.
Brown was mostly a non-factor in the Week 1 game against the Ravens. He had just two receptions for 14 yards in the 35-7 blowout Baltimore win. Apparently that didn't diminish the respect the Ravens defense has for him though. Earlier this week, Lardarius Webb proclaimed that he thought Brown was a better wide receiver than Mike Wallace. We won't go there, but I will say that I think Webb is wise to acknowledge the immense talent that No. 84 possess. He's extremely natural and smooth out there, be it with how he catches the ball fluidly, uses his feet well around the sidelines, and instinctively finds the right lane to hit in the return game.
Speaking of the return game, that's actually where I'm hoping Brown makes the impact play that could potentially swing the game in Pittsburgh's favor. Brown has been one of the league's better kickoff and punt returners through eight weeks despite not having that one long return to pad his stats. He's averaging 28.9 yards per return, fourth best among players with at least 10 kickoff returns. On punts, Brown is averaging 12.1 yards per pop, sixth best in the league (10 minimum).
The Ravens just so happen to be one of the poorer teams with their coverage units. Football Outsiders has Baltimore ranked 29th covering kickoffs and tied for 24th covering punts. Even if Brown isn't able to take one to the house, here's to hoping that he can give Pittsburgh favorable field position on one....or three....possessions on Sunday. The Steelers may just need it to run their winning streak to five and retain control over first place in the division and conference.