When quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le'Veon Bell cleanly executed their portion of a flea-flicker play early in the fourth quarter of what would soon be a crushing 27-24 Steelers loss to Tampa Bay at Heinz Field on Sunday, and Roethlisberger heaved the football some 60 yards downfield to receiver Antonio Brown, who was sprinting underneath the pass at around the 16 yard line, did anyone think AB wasn't going to catch it and score his third touchdown of the game?
By that point, Brown had already hauled in two TD passes, so why wouldn't he catch this pass, beat his two defenders to the end zone, do whatever dance he was going to do and give Pittsburgh a 31-20 lead in a game they once trailed, 10-0?
Unfortunately, Roethlisberger's pass skidded through Brown's hands and Pittsburgh failed to score on the drive. And late in the game, the Steelers' chances for 3-1 skidded into the waiting arms of Buccaneers' receiver Vincent Jackson, who pulled in a game-winning, five-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glennon with seven seconds left. Steelers play-by-play announcer Bill Hilgrove told us that you could hear a pin drop at that point in Heinz Field (even though that would be pretty amazing, since the turf is made of grass). Brown was one of the players fitted with goat horns, despite finishing the afternoon with seven receptions for 131 yards, the two aforementioned scores and a nifty little 17-yard option pass to Bell.
That's what happens when you appear to be perfect; people begin to expect perfection.
Receivers may have it tougher than any other player on the field in terms of the long memory people have about what they're most known for: catching passes.
Fans sure don't forget drops, nor do coaches. And quarterbacks will get in a receiver's ear within a heartbeat after a dropped pass, even if they too are prone to mistakes like missing open targets, as Roethlisberger did in the second half on Sunday when he overthrew Markus Wheaton, who was running free down the sideline.
Some receivers might be applauded for their toughness and grit, like the legendary Hines Ward, who was known almost as much for his blocking as he was for the 1,000 receptions and 12,000 yards he recorded during his 14-year career. But make no mistake, if Ward was prone to big drops, nobody would have given two cents for his blocking ability.
While people have brought up the dropped pass a time or three this week, nobody seems to remember Brown's second score, a 27 yard diving grab that was about as tough as the drop would have been easy.
But again, there's a lot expected of Brown now, and rightfully so. He has worked himself into a status as one of the top four or five receivers in the NFL, and when it comes to Steelers at the top of their respective positions.....those are hard to come by these days.
Barring injury or a free-agent exodus, Brown looks like he's going to shatter every single franchise receiving mark by the time his career in Pittsburgh is over. But for right now, he sure is fun to watch, isn't he?
As cliched as this sounds, if the Steelers had 53 players like No. 84, we certainly wouldn't be wondering if this team was good, mediocre or bad, because the description "Super Bowl contender" would have been spoken for a long time ago.
Antonio Brown isn't perfect, but he sure is awesome.