Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is accustomed to averaging over 100 receiving yards per game, but his 2018 average stands at 68.0 through four games, leading some to wonder if his connection with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered.
Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 1-2-1, suffering a 26-14 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. Despite regularly getting open against a stingy Ravens secondary, Antonio Brown only secured 5 of his 11 targets for 62 yards, meaning that he has failed to notch 100 receiving yards in any of his four appearances this season.
Ben Roethlisberger missed several easy passes to Brown, who worked himself open with beautiful stems and subtle fakes. Brown is an artist when he runs routes, and Roethlisberger is normally there to help Brown turn the hard work into production.
Since Brown is averaging under 70 receiving yards per game, which is well below the historic standard he normally sets, and less than 10.0 yards per reception in 2018, questions have been raised about whether he and Roethlisberger are on the same page.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Brown likened his chemistry with Roethlisberger to Wi-Fi, stating that while it can be in-and-out, it’s “always connected”. It’s an appropriate comparison that lends itself to quite a few jokes about frustrating Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why Brown’s numbers have taken a huge hit to start the 2018 season.
Furthermore, Brown recently explained his frustration with the Steelers slow start to the year, and that was before their disappointing loss to Baltimore in primetime. When Pittsburgh lost a shootout to the Kansas City Chiefs and early MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes, Brown was more than willing to make those tensions known and was even punished for missing a meeting.
Brown remains one of the NFL’s most effective wide receivers and is still a matchup nightmare for defenses. With JuJu Smith-Schuster emerging as a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in talent (but a No. 2 wide receiver in practice), Brown’s numbers will inevitably take a hit, even if it is disappointing to see his yards per reception average tumble under 10.0.
Brown said that “sometimes the connection is great” in reference to his Wi-Fi chemistry with Roethlisberger, and players have a way of having their biggest performances when the fans and media begin to question them. It wouldn’t be surprising for Brown and Roethlisberger to light up the Atlanta Falcons weak defense in a historic shootout against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (with Calvin Ridley thrown in to match Smith-Schuster). That’s just how the NFL works.