Antonio Brown is human after all. Well, at least last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals he was.
He only had four catches for 39 yards. He let an easy catch bounce off his hands and fall to the dirt. No scores for the wide receiver.
Still, Pittsburgh’s offense did just fine.
Running back DeAngelo Williams continues to make his case as one of general manager Kevin Colbert’s best signings after he chugged along with 94 rushing yards on 32 carries. The NFL’s oldest running back also caught four passes for 38 yards and a score.
Second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates racked up 97 yards on two long completions. All three tight ends — Xavier Grimble, Jesse James and David Johnson — played well.
Even without Brown producing, the Steelers still scored 24 points against a talented Bengals defense. Cincinnati was second in average points against last season at 17 against.
Everything was all right.
Brown does not have to be producing on the stat sheet to contribute offensively. Defenses have to respect his playmaking ability, making him a fantastic decoy to free up other players.
It means leaving one less defender in the box against Williams. It could mean leaving Dre Kirkpatrick one-on-one with Coates. It could mean more space underneath for the tight end.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have total success hooking up with Coates on the deep pass. Kirkpatrick did have an interception in one-on-one coverage, but was also beat deep for gains of 53 and 44 yards.
Coates is still young and learning how to play at the professional level. Some lumps are to be expected, but as Coates progresses and Roethlisberger develops a better repertoire, the deep pass to him will be more successful.
Second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers and veteran Markus Wheaton both open things up in the middle for the passing game. Tight end Ladarius Green’s athleticism gives Roethlisberger a weapon unlike one he’s ever worked with at the position when he returns. Le’Veon Bell might be the best all-around back in football, especially now that Adrian Peterson is out injured, and returns after Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.
That stockpile of weapons gets even more dangerous if opposing defenses game plan revolved around stopping Brown because it frees them up. Then if they have to shift focus elsewhere, Brown will go back to putting up eye-popping numbers; he probably will still do so even if that doesn’t happen.
So yes, Brown had a down game for his standards. It happens in the NFL, and Brown consistently putting up huge numbers makes it easy to forget that.
Yet the Steelers’ offense still got the best of the Bengals’ defense. The unit’s not even at full strength yet.
The best is still to come.
Photo credit: Steelers.com