Antonio Brown Key to Steelers Rebounding in Week 4

Ryan DavenportContributor ISeptember 23, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a third quarter touchdown catch while playing the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field on September 22, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Three weeks into the Steelers' 2013 schedule, and there's not much to be smiling about in Pittsburgh.

Sitting at 0-3 going into their Week 4 tilt with the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Tomlin's squad has been completely dysfunctional in virtually every way imaginable, but despite the black and gold's lopsided 17-point loss to the Bears in Week 3, Antonio Brown was a clear bright spot for Steelers fans. 

That's because, with an unthinkable 196 yards against a quality opponent, Brown demonstrated to the football world that he's capable of being a game-changer, even on a currently dreadful Steelers team. 

So heading into their Week 4 showdown in London, England against a fellow winless team in the Vikings, it's clear that if the Steelers are going to get victory No. 1 on the season overseas, Brown's got to play a starring role. 

Against a Vikings squad that has been atrocious against the pass, Brown will get more than ample opportunity to show that his Week 3 performance was no fluke, and that he should be considered a legitimate No. 1 receiver in this league. 

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 10:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers makes a catch in the end zone that was over turned as a touchdown in the first half against Corey Webster #23 of the New York Giants during the game on August 10, 2013 at Heinz Fiel
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Yes, it's ludicrous to think that the former Central Michigan receiver is likely to post another 196-yard performance, even against the league's 28th-ranked pass defense. But Brown's actually been consistently effective despite the team's overall struggles.

During the Steelers' losses to the Titans and Bengals, the 25-year-old Brown hauled in a combined 11 passes for 128 yards. So if he continues on that trajectory, he should be good for at least 70-80 yards against a weak secondary like that of Minnesota's. 

And, as CBS Sports' Colin Dunlap pointed out, Brown delivered the goods after a controversial spat with the coaching staff a week earlier. 

Brown’s play was a beacon in an otherwise frightfully dark evening for an offense that sputtered through five turnovers and a depressing 3 for 11 on third down.

Brown made a more remarkable catch, when his leaping, in-traffic touchdown late in the third quarter pulled the Steelers within 27-20.

He showed up on Sunday night — in a big way.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 28:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the Washington Redskins on October 28, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

And now, with the Steelers in dire need of a victory at a neutral site, Brown will have to be the catalyst for Pittsburgh to bounce back. 

Pittsburgh's offense has been toothless on the ground, sitting 31st in the NFL in rushing yards, so for this offense to outgun anyone, Ben Roethlisberger and Brown showing up on Sunday is an absolute necessity. 

If he doesn't continue to put up big numbers, this team will remain winless heading into their much-needed Week 5 bye. 

For now, Brown seems to be a safe bet to best his career-high 1,108 yards from 2011, and that's exactly what he'll have to do in order to get the Steelers out of the league basement by season's end.