I am actually writing this article from a location other than my home location. Why? Because I found a wasp in my place the other day—that is my number one phobia. Naturally, I was determined to kill the wasp, so I went after it with a sledgehammer countless times until I finally got the little sucker. Now I’ve been evicted from my apartment—something about vandalism or whatever—and I need a new place to stay.
But, hey, at least I didn’t let that wasp sting me.
Actually, none of that is true...yet. But you can rest assured if I ever do find a wasp in my apartment, the above mentioned scenario (or something involving a blowtorch) will likely take place.
Anyway, that brings me to the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers, and the season-long determination of their opponents to take away—or, at least lessen the effectiveness of—receiver Antonio Brown.
That was apparently the number one goal of Broncos head coach Vance Joseph last week as his team prepared to take on Pittsburgh at Mile High Stadium.
In fact, below is a post-game quote from Joseph, courtesy of Steelers beat reporter Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com:
“That was huge. Our gameplan was to not let Antonio Brown (beat us). We knew ‘19,’ Schuster, was going to make some plays obviously, but the plan was not to let ‘84 beat us. I’ve been in games where he’s beaten me single-handedly. The plan was to take him away, stop the run game as best we could with a seven-man box and just deal with ‘19’ the best we could. It worked, except for a 97-yard play we gave up to ‘19.’ I think Antonio, the longest catch he had was 14 yards. It worked, and we came away with a victory.”
Yeah, Coach, you did come away with a victory, but to say your game-plan “worked” is like saying my hypothetical way of dealing with the wasp in my apartment worked.
Second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (you know, ‘19? Schuster?) basically had his way with Denver’s defense to the tune of 13 receptions for 189 yards and that already alluded to 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Yes, the Broncos won, but it had more to do with self-inflicted gaffes by Pittsburgh and less to do with the “No, no, Antonio!” game-plan devised by Vance Joseph and his staff.
Smith-Schuster’s big day against the Broncos marked the sixth time he’s eclipsed 100 receiving yards in 2018; and the 189 he tallied officially put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career (1,055), and he’s now on pace for 1,534 receiving yards on the season. And with 77 receptions through 11 games, Smith-Schuster is on pace for 112.
So let me get this straight: the best way to stop Antonio Brown is to allow another Steeler receiver to have an Antonio Brown-like season?
But at least Pittsburgh’s opponents have totally eliminated Brown as a threat, right? Oh wait, with 71 receptions for 874 yards, Brown is still on pace for 103 and 1,271, respectively.
But at least the opposition has limited Brown as a touchdown threat, right?
If by “right,” you mean “wrong,” you’d be correct.
With 11 touchdowns through 11 weeks, Brown is on pace for 16 on the season (obviously), a number that would smash his single-season career-high of 13, set back in 2014.
Admittedly, Brown has had chemistry issues with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who seems to have adopted the shotgun method of trying to get his all-world receiver the football in 2018. Brown does have 71 catches on the year, but he hasn’t come by them in a very efficient manner, considering he’s been targeted a whopping 122 times thus far. Also, there’s the matter of nine of Roethlisberger’s 12 interceptions coming while trying to force the football to the usually double or triple-teamed No. 84.
Other than that little problem, it’s hard to say opposing coaches have devised an effective game-plan for Brown, not when you consider the Steelers 7-3-1 record.
And, to reiterate, the offense is on pace to have two 1,000-yard receivers for the first time in ages. Then there’s the career year (already) for tight end Vance McDonald, who has collected 36 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
Speaking of career years, fellow tight end Jesse James is also having one of those, at least in receiving yards with 379 with still five games to go.
Finally, let’s not forget running back James Conner, who, with 453 receiving yards out of the backfield, is on pace for 658, a respectable number considering he’s not you know who.
But wait, there’s more. What about the career year Roethlisberger is having (Brown-forced interceptions, aside)? With 3,664 passing yards and 24 touchdowns through 11 games, No. 7 is on pace for 5,329 and 35, respectively.
Not bad, considering Roethlisberger’s opponents have taken his number one target away.
So, good job, Steeler opponents. You’ve taken Antonio Brown away as an MVP-threat in 2018. I just hope you get your security deposit back after taking a sledgehammer to the rest of your pass defense.