Do people say ‘You can’t put a price on loyalty?’ Perhaps as a last-ditch plea when you’re leaving a job for greener pastures. Maybe it’s included within the fine print when you apply for a retail position; who’s to say? But on Monday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers and wideout Antonio Brown found that price.
Roughly ninety minutes after franchise tagging halfback Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers inked the superstar wideout to a four-year extension totaling $68 million. A four-year extension that includes a $19 million signing bonus. A four-year extension that says ‘Hey, we’re not going anywhere just yet, New England.’
While surveying the AFC, you’ll discover a couple things. First, if you give the Denver Broncos a competent quarterback they’re arguably the most complete team in the conference behind the Patriots. Apply that to the top-ranked defense of the Houston Texans, and suddenly the AFC looks a little more formidable.
But probably for at least one more season, the Steelers already have that quarterback. Maybe the answer already exists within Denver’s roster, but Houston might not be so fortunate. Even the Chiefs are arguably just a playmaker under center away from making a deeper run.
Meanwhile, for at least one more season, the Steelers don’t have to worry about their offense. One that boasted the fifth-best passing attack in the league, and second-best within the AFC. One that finished seventh in total yards and tenth in points per game. And, third- and sixth-best in the AFC, respectively.
However, you can’t say the same for the defense. You cannot compare Pittsburgh’s defense to that of the Broncos, Texans or New England. But it’s not all bad, either. They were 12th in total yards allowed and 10th in PPG. That translated to seventh and sixth, respectively, among their AFC counterparts. Neither elite nor even great, but competent enough.
And that’s fine. After all, the list of active wide receivers better than Antonio Brown is short. The list of halfbacks better than Le’Veon Bell might be slightly lengthier, but hardly by much. Especially if he can stay on the field for the duration of the regular season. And, the list of signal-callers better than their own—perhaps lengthier still—isn’t all that extensive either. Those who rest just below him on the depth chart, Landry Jones and Zach Mettenberger, don’t instill much confidence, however.
But for now, the Steelers have their core. With Bell, Brown and Big Ben under control, their window is open. Sure it’s big money for any player, but Brown is a big-time wideout. And in a league that has never been more passer-friendly, an incredibly important one. Yet, should Pittsburgh worry about Brown’s dip last season?
Note so much.
Before we get to the numbers, it’s necessary to point out that even when his birthday arrives in July, Brown will still be on the better side of 30. It’s necessary to point out that despite being relatively undersized for a No. 1 wideout (5’10”, 180 pounds), Brown continues to make plays. And it’s necessary to note that combine numbers aren’t the be all, end all—regardless of our sporadic overreactions to them.
In Brown, the Steelers hold onto a wideout who has averaged 120 receptions, 1,579 yards and 11 touchdowns per season over the previous four. Additionally, the Steelers have a superstar who has missed only one game over the previous 64. In Brown, they have a receiver who steadily averages 100 yards per game with an ever-consistent catch percentage. The list goes on.
And in Brown, Pittsburgh oversaw the grand transformation of a sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan University into one of the best wideouts in the game today. As it stands, he’ll be a member of the black and gold for life. With that in mind, and their core firmly intact, there’s just one thing left to do:
“The only thing to left to do is get a ring.”