For a football team so well known for its defense for so many years, the Steelers sure are cranking out a lot of quality offensive players these days -- and it seems as if people suddenly can't stop noticing.
The latest recognition comes from Pro Football Focus’s John Kosko, who named three Steelers to his list of the AFC's 10 best offensive players. And you'll never guess who made the list.
I’m being obviously facetious, of course, because the Steelers boast a one-two-three punch unlike any other in the league with receiver Antonio Brown, running back Le’Veon Bell and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Brown landed at number two, just behind New England’s Rob Gronkowski. You could make a decent argument for either at the top spot, as each has transcended their position to a remarkable degree, so it’s no shame for Brown to come in behind a freakish athlete like Gronkowski. Kosko cites Brown’s tendency to catch just about everything thrown within one county of him, pointing out that “The Steelers wideout has just 10 drops the past two years on 276 catchable targets.” Kosko credits Brown’s quickness and “crisp” routes for his success.
Nipping at Brown’s heels, though, was teammate Bell, the top-rated runner in the AFC. In fact, his praise of Bell is effusive, saying, “Bell’s deadly combination of vision, patience, agility, and power makes him the NFL’s best [halfback].” Kosko also points to Bell’s ability to gain yards after contact, stating that his 3.41 yards per carry after first contact tops all runners, and is nearly four tenths of a yard ahead of second place Doug Martin’s 3.15.
Roethlisberger comes in at number seven, just one spot behind Gronkowski’s teammate, Tom Brady. Kosko mentions the caveat, though, that Roethlisberger would likely be higher if not for injuries — Roethlisberger missed four complete games and parts of three others in 2015. Noted is Brown’s performance with and without Roethlisberger: “the impact an elite quarterback has on his team is perfectly highlighted with this stat: Antonio Brown averaged 9.7 catches per game, 132 yards, and caught 10 TDs when Roethlisberger was playing, compared to just 4.3 catches, 59 yards, and zero TDs per game without him this past season.”
Just four teams are represented in the list besides the Steelers and the Patriots, and three of those are the Steelers’ division rivals. The Ravens’ Marshal Yanda lands at number five, while the Bengals finish off the list with the ninth and tenth spots, going to receiver A.J. Green and tackle Andrew Whitworth, respectively. The Browns are represented surprisingly high for the team, but not for the player, with All-Universe tackle Joe Thomas coming in all the way up at number four.