Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ron, the lead editor of FantasyFootballOverdose.Com – great source of football news and rumors. You can follow @NFLRankings via Twitter or via Google+ for more updates.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having a season for the ages. In the two weeks before this past Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Jets, Roethlisberger threw a record 12 touchdowns in two games (six apiece), and earlier, threw for 500 yards in a game for the second time in his career (the first NFL player to do so). He is having a season that might cement his status as a surefire Hall-of-Famer, but he is not doing it alone.
A large part of Roethlisberger’s success can be attributed to the stellar play of Pittsburgh’s pass-catchers, beginning with Antonio Brown. Brown leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,070 through nine games—an average of 107 yards per game. He has hauled in eight receiving touchdowns, and fooled everybody by throwing another against Houston in week seven—who knew Brown was a southpaw?
Perhaps there is no better way to sum up Brown’s phenomenal play this season than this: in an interview on NFL Network, Jerry Rice, whom most consider to be the greatest receiver of all time, was asked who he believes is the best receiver in today’s game. His answer was—you guessed it—Antonio Brown.
Aside from Brown, the Steelers have had some trouble getting production from their wideouts. Markus Wheaton has scored only twice this whole season, as it was apparent early on that he and Roethlisberger were simply not on the same page. The addition of rookie fourth-rounder out of Clemson Martavis Bryant, however, has added a new dimension to Pittsburgh’s passing game. Bryant is built for the deep ball, and has an eye-popping six touchdowns in four games to show for it. Since Bryant entered the mix at receiver, Wheaton’s production has also picked up.
Though not a receiver technically, running back Le’Veon Bell is one of the best passing-game backs in the NFL. Bell dropped a lot of weight in the offseason and has emerged as a more elusive ball-carrier and route-runner than he had been previously. He is second on the team in receptions with 55 (Brown is first with a whopping 79). Two of those 55 catches, Bell has converted for six points.
Rounding out the notables of the receiving corps is tight end Heath Miller. Miller was one of the most productive tight ends in football in his younger days, but ever since suffering a gruesome knee injury in 2012, Miller’s age (32) has begun to catch up with him. He is still capable of going off for 100-plus yards and a touchdown on any given day, but generally, he is just a supplement in the Steeler offense.
The Steelers have received marginal production from free-agent signings Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, and also hope to eventually develop second-year project Justin Brown into an offensive weapon. Veteran tight end Matt Spaeth also receives sporadic red-zone targets, which he is perfectly capable of turning into touchdowns.
Though Roethlisberger and Brown get most of the credit and notoriety, the prolific Pittsburgh passing offense is an effort made by a number of hard-working and productive individuals whose cohesion will only grow, resulting in an even more coordinated, synchronized, and overall lethal aerial assault.