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What major milestones are in reach for Steelers players in 2017?

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Most players play football for championships, with personal statistics and achievements taking a back seat. But that doesn’t mean those achievements aren’t worth celebrating.

Divisional Round - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

When you have a roster as talented as what the Steelers have been blessed with over the last several years, there are two absolute truths that become evident.

  1. Individual, statistical milestones will pass quickly.
  2. Milestones can often go unnoticed or unheralded in the name of winning games and championships.

That doesn’t mean we should overlook those occasions in players’ careers when they reach a significant high-water mark. Because we will likely miss many of these as they come and go in 2017, perhaps now is a good time to recognize those moments that may come to pass.

Ben Roethlisberger

50,000 yards

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 3,186 yards away from 50,000 career yards. Under Mike Tomlin, he has thrown for less than that in a season just once — in Tomlin’s rookie season of 2007, when he threw for 3,154 yards. Barring injury, he and fellow 2004 draftee Eli Manning will become the 8th and 9th quarterbacks to pass 50,000 yards in NFL history.

Bonus: Philip Rivers, the other quarterback drafted in the top 15 in 2004, also has an outside chance of surpassing that mark. He currently sits 4,167 yards away.

Antonio Brown

Consecutive seasons with 100+ catches

A handful or so of players will reach 100 catches each season, especially now that passing has become so prominent in the NFL. In league history, it has been done 96 times. Only twice has a player managed to pull down 100 or more catches in four consecutive seasons. One of those players is former Indianapolis Colts great Marvin Harrison, who accomplished the feat from 1999 to 2002.

The other is receiver Antonio Brown. And he has a chance to make it five in a row in 2017, putting him all alone atop that record.

All-time receiving yardage

Currently, Brown is 78th all-time in receiving yards in just seven seasons, and only five with 10 or more starts. With an average of 1,579 yards per season over the last four years, a merely average season in 2017 will give him 9,956 yards, good for as high as 47th on the all-time list.

10,000 yards receiving

If Brown can push his total just a little higher than his average over the last four years, to at least 1,623 yards, he will likely become the 46th player all-time to break 10,000 yards receiving.

Career receptions

To bring it full-circle: in the four consecutive seasons in which Brown has had at least 100 receptions, he has averaged 120 per year. An average season for Brown in 2017 will give him 752, pushing him into sole possession of 38th place all time, two ahead of both Michael Irvin and Charlie Joiner.

Le’Veon Bell

All-time Steelers rushing yards

In 2016, running back Le’Veon Bell averaged better than 100 yards rushing per game. If he manages to play all 16 games, and averages at least 83.4 yards rushing per game, he will leap over both John Henry Johnson and Willie Parker, into third place all-time on the Steelers’ career rushing yards list.

All-time Steelers receptions

If Bell can equal his 2016 receiving output of 75 catches — in just 12 games — he will jump from 15th to 9th on the Steelers’ all-time receptions list, and will surpass 300 career catches.

Cameron Heyward

Sacks for a Steelers 3-4 defensive lineman

In his first three years as a full-time starter, Heyward had no fewer than five sacks in any of those seasons. Even in an injury-shortened 2016, he was on pace for seven. At his extrapolated average of 6.5 sacks per year, equaling that average would move him ahead of Brett Keisel for third all-time among 3-4 defensive linemen for the Steelers, and leave him just two average seasons away from tying Aaron Smith for second with 44.

Chris Boswell

100 career extra points

In 2016, kicker Chris Boswell made 36 extra points. If he makes 38 in 2017, he will be the second-fastest kicker to begin his career with the Steelers to reach 100 successful extra point tries — and the only one who had to deal with two-point conversions and attempts from the 15-yard line. To date, only Gary Anderson reached the century mark before the end of his third season.