Antonio Brown is a preternaturally talented wide receiver. Is he the best in Steelers history? In today's installment of Point-Counterpoint, Bryan DeArdo of 247 Sports and contributor Dani Bostick each attempt to present a side of this argument.
Spoiler: It is not as simple as "yes" or "no."
Bryan DeArdo: He's the best regular season receiver in team history, but not the best receiver in team history.
The owner of the top-three receiving seasons in Steelers history, there's no question that Antonio Brown already belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Steelers' receivers. But he's still behind Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Hines Ward on the list of Pittsburgh's all-time receivers.
In Pittsburgh, it's all about championships, and the other three guys on this list have the hardware to back up their impressive individual statistics. Ward was named MVP of Super Bowl XL, and was an intricate part of the team's run to a victory in Super Bowl XL. Stallworth won four Super Bowls and, if not for his combined six catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowls XIII and XIV, Pittsburgh doesn't win those games against the Cowboys and Rams, respectively.
While you can easily make a case for Stallworth, Swann is still my choice for the best receiver in team history, and the reason is simple: he made the most plays in the biggest games. He caught a pivotal touchdown in Pittsburgh's first AFC Championship Game victory, a 23-14 win over the Raiders that led to the team's win in Super Bowl IX. Swann dominated Super Bowl X, catching four passes for 161 yards and a 64-yard, game-clinching touchdown in Pittsburgh's win over the Cowboys.
In Super Bowl XIII, Swann caught seven passes for 124 yards and the game-sealing 18-yard catch from Super Bowl MVP Terry Bradshaw's in the Steelers' 35-31 win over Dallas. In Super Bowl XIV, Swann's 47-yard touchdown catch helped Pittsburgh defeat the Rams, 31-19.
Aside from stats, Swann was simply a different kind of player. Graceful yet not afraid to go over the middle, he played a major role in all four of the team's championship seasons of the 1970s, and was an all-world talent that is still revered by Steelers' fans today.
While Brown doesn't need to win four Super Bowls to surpass Swann and Stallworth, he needs to get a ring to make his case for the best Steelers receiver of all-time. But for now, standing beside Swann, Stallworth and Ward isn't a bad place to be for Brown, who hopefully has many more years to add to his legacy in the black and gold.
Dani Bostick: It is too soon to tell.
Based on DeArdo's comments and my point of view, you can tell that neither of us are ready to debate exactly opposite sides of this argument. Antonio Brown is one of the best wide receivers in Steelers history. It is too soon to decide whether or not he is the absolute best because his career is not complete.
The current Steelers offense is approaching legendary status, if not NFL-wide, then at least for the team. Brown is a big part of the offense's success and has phenomenal statistics that exceed those of wide receivers from years past. Nonetheless, it is difficult to make a direct comparison between Brown and past recievers. Afterall, the league had become pass-happy, unlike the decades of bruising running backs and less flashy through-the-air plays.
Fact is, Brown could become the best receiver in NFL history. If he stays healthy, and Big Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, he has a very high ceiling. On the other hand, if he begins a decline, his legacy could end up being one of unfulfilled potential and disappointment.
Can we predict which way Brown's career will go? Will he be a Super Bowl MVP before he retires? Set more NFL records? Or, will injury and poor performance mar his final years in the NFL? Is it possible he won't retire a Steeler? (Heresy! And, I did my anti-jinx routine when I wrote that).