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Looking at the challenge of Steelers Antonio Brown reaching 2,000 receving yards this year

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It's a tough hill to climb, but there's no question of the talent of Steelers' WR Antonio Brown. Picking up a few big games against a few statistically weaker pass defenses remaining on Pittsburgh's schedule could get him there.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Through nine games, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has 996 yards, or 110.6 yards per game. This torrid pace projects out to 1,770 yards at the end of Week 17.

Is Brown able to squeeze out another 34 yards per game over his current average?

We think so. Very tough, but possible.

While continuing to factor in the weather, we must also weigh-in the state of the Steelers' passing offense from the first quarter of the season to the second. Brown is seeing the ball more in an offense that's throwing the ball more. The emergence of rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant creates an imposing deep threat, and his five touchdown passes - three of which came on deeper throws - officially make the Steelers' secret weapon known.

The state of this offense at the beginning of the season was such that they had second-year wide receiver Justin Brown in the slot, theoretically for a size advantage blocking from that position. But Brown doesn't even get a helmet anymore, replaced by the player most figured would handle slot duties for most of this season, Lance Moore. That's two receivers out, and Brown has been spectacular in the new arrangement.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is throwing as well as he ever has, connecting on deep passes as well as making proper reads in the shorter game. Also absent of late is the use of Brown as an auxiliary wide running back. The team has largely eschewed the Brown Screen, and are using him in a more vertical-attacking role. And as we saw on his 50-yard touchdown run-and-catch against Baltimore, he's still as dangerous as ever in the open field on shorter crossing routes.

The addition of Bryant, along with the presence of a more talented, route-running slot receiver provides more weaponry for Roethlisberger - a legitimate MVP candidate through nine games. The Steelers would gladly welcome teams putting four defenders on Brown and allowing Roethlisberger to pick which receivers he wants to lead every NFL highlights show during the next week as the Steelers score 60 points a game. Instead, teams really cannot commit a whole lot extra to covering Brown. They can't cover him exclusively in man because he's too fast out of his breaks and the Steelers would use him on deep crosses and comebacks for big chunks of yardage. Bracketing him high and low in a man-under scheme will eventually put deep safeties in conflict, and the Steelers will run posts and seams right in those areas.

Brown has the means and the opportunity to make a legitimate run at the 2,000-yard receiving mark, and the Steelers' offense has the run of games in which to consider it a possibility. Looking at their next two games before their bye week - away games facing the Jets and the Titans - the Steelers of all teams should take little comfort in the dismal state of other teams. Although they won't face two worse quarterbacks this season than what they'll see in their next two games, its tough to forget that a loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the only thing currently standing between them and a share of the a division-leading record in the AFC.

The Steelers have two games remaining against one of the league's best pass-defenses, the Cincinnati Bengals, and a game next week against the league's worst-passing defense, the Jets. Add this to a smattering of middle- to lower-tier passing defenses (Kansas City, Atlanta and New Orleans) and you see Brown's opportunities to gain enough yardage to make up for the tougher challenges he faces (statistically, the Bengals are the main deterrent).

In the end, it's all likely to come out in Brown's favor, whether he sniffs 2,000 yards or not. Just the fact it's tantalizingly close to the point when we'd be actively discussing it makes it worth planting the seed now.