Steelers Pregame Focus: Antonio Brown and Victor Cruz traveled a similar path to get to this game

Justin K. Aller

Similar size, similar upbringing, similar paths into the NFL, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and New York's Victor Cruz are on a playmaking collision course Sunday.

Two receivers diverged in the NFL wood, and sorry they could not travel both, and be one receiver, on draft day they stood. Teams looked down one as far as they could, to where he bent in the Combine undergrowth.

Central Michigan's Antonio Brown, a 2009 sixth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, tore up a small school en route to his selection to play on Sundays. He left a year of collegiate eligibility on the table.

The Giants' Victor Cruz, nearly two years Brown's elder, stayed four years at the University of Massachusetts, and was undrafted when eligible in 2010.


Todd Haley's Success | Steelers Vs. Giants Pregame Stream | Steelers Injury Report

One's a bit bigger (Cruz's 6-foot-even to Brown's 5-foot-10), and the other had a higher pedigree. One has the distinction of being the first player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards receiving and returning, one holds his team's record for receiving yards (1,536 for the Giants in 2011).

One signed a contract this past offseason (Brown, six years, $43.04 million deal that included the 2012 season). One has a tentative deal in place.

No doubt, Brown's contract was considered a comp in his negotiation, and the fact Cruz has 16 receiving touchdowns to Brown's three strongly suggests his deal will be worth a bit more than Brown's.

Playmaking ability exists for both players, and both players will be on display when the Steelers take on the Giants at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The fact both the Giants and the Steelers have young receivers leading their teams in catches after finding them seemingly out of nowhere speaks largely to why both of these teams have had the success they've had over the last five years. Four Super Bowl appearances between them since 2007, three championships (two for the Giants) and the envy of the rest of the league. Not too bad.

Some teams may be intimidated by the aura of success both these teams have, particularly when armed with their high-pedigree quarterbacks. It's low-priority draft picks and undrafted free agents like Brown and Cruz, though, that give these teams the explosion they possess.

Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are well aware of each other. Both 2004 draft picks, both two-time Super Bowl champions, both with an outstanding duo of receivers split out.

Both are defaulting to the later and unselected receivers more than their higher selected counterparts - Brown over third round pick Mike Wallace and Cruz over first-round pick Hakeem Nicks.

There's a reason for that. They're both explosive playmakers. Not to take anything away from Wallace or Nicks (both with large contracts in store for them at a later time), but either Cruz or Brown in the short open field horrifies opposing defenses.

While the Ben vs. Eli hype is understandable, don't be surprised if this game is decided by the gems of the 2009 and 2010 drafts, respectively. Which one of these guys will come up with bigger plays, particularly down the stretch, could be the deciding factor.


X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker