In a season mired in disappointment, some might contend that the Steelers don’t have a true team MVP.
After all, Ben Roethlisberger had another successful campaign, but even he’s failed to come through in some big moments.
Perceived draft busts Cameron Heyward and Jason Worilds have been unarguably the team’s best defenders over the second half of the season, but that’s in part a testament to how poor Pittsburgh’s defense has been this year.
Rookie Le’Veon Bell appears to have a bright future and is virtually assured of taking home the team’s top newcomer award; but without a 100-yard game to his credit and averaging just 3.4 yards per tote, it’s tough to anoint him as the team’s best player.
No, there’s only one man who’s towered above his teammates and earned the right to be called the Steelers’ best player. And that’s made all the more surprising by the fact that he’s only 5’10”.
That’s right, Antonio Brown.
Brown was handed the Steelers top receiver role heading into this year when they allowed Mike Wallace to walk in free agency. Many questioned if he could handle the added responsibility, but Brown’s proven that he’s totally capable of, ahem, taking the ball and running with it.
On this 43-yard catch-and-run Brown proves the old adage about being "more quick than fast." Brown, who ran a solid if unspectacular 4.47 40-yard dash, catches a quick slant pass from Roethlisberger and then runs laterally toward the right sideline to elude Dannell Ellerbe.
From there he turns up the sideline and manages to slip past Chris Clemons and Nolan Carroll, both of whom look to have an angle on the play.
Of course, this would've only been Brown's second biggest play of the day had he been just an inch more to the right on the miracle game-winning touchdown that wasn't. But that one play shouldn't overshadow Brown's big-play capability.
In fact, the shortest of Brown's career-high seven touchdowns this year came from 21 yards out. But unlike Wallace before him, Brown's more than just a big-play threat.
Brown's caught at least five passes and tallied at least 50 receiving yards in every game this year. But that's just the statistical floor for this young star. On average, Brown's tallied 95 yards per game this year.
It's this consistency that has Brown on pace to shatter some long-standing team records. Brown needs 23 receptions and 159 yards over these last three games to break the team records held by Hines Ward and (surprisingly) Yancey Thigpen, respectively.
That receptions record is certainly within reach, and the yardage one is all but a foregone conclusion. After all, Brown already topped that 158-yard total in a single game this year in a spectacular showing against the Bears.
Of the 196 yards Brown amassed in that game, however, 21 of them really stand out.
This play still befuddles me. Somehow Brown manages to track and secure the ball as he's falling to the turf, all the while making sure that his left foot touches down before his knee hits out of bounds.
That play will assuredly go down as one of, if not the, best catches of the 2013 season.
But it's not solely Brown's penchant for the spectacular which will garner him team MVP honors this season. It's his ability to be consistently spectacular.
Something that's unfortunately escaped the rest of his team.