Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Steelers.com recently posted the transcript of an interview with the Chicago Bears’ head coach, Marc Trestman. When Trestman was asked about the type of positive impact that All Pro return man Devin Hester can have on his team, Chicago’s head coach actually steered his answer into a positive compliment about Pittsburgh’s Pro Bowl return man, Antonio Brown:
"The Steelers have one like him. We’ve got a lot of respect for Antonio [Brown] and his ability. We’re very cautious going in knowing the kind of player he is. We said it today that we think he has the same ability. He hasn’t done it for 10 years like Devin has, but he has the same kind of ability like Devin has."
While the comparison of Brown to Hester might be a bit of a stretch, there is no denying that Antonio Brown can have a positive impact on Pittsburgh’s special teams as a return man. In fact, he has been quite the weapon for the Steelers in those departments since he came into the league back in 2010 when he returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown on the first time he touched the ball in a regular season game.
Brown’s best season as a return man came the following year when he was named to the Pro Bowl after he racked up 325 punt return yards and one touchdown, and tallied 737 more yards on kickoff returns. Unfortunately for Brown, his success did not carry over into last fall when he had two punt return touchdowns called back by penalties in addition to ball security issues.
Brown’s emergence as a starting wide receiver has caused the Steelers’ coaching staff to try to take him off of special teams, but his ability to make explosive plays like his punt return of 40 yards against the Bengals on Monday night make him a difficult player to remove from the aforementioned duties.
With the team’s offense stagnant, it might be wise for special teams coach Danny Smith to put Brown back on kickoffs and punts to flip field position for his offense. Whether or not Pittsburgh will use Brown in that capacity moving forward is definitely up for debate. What is not however is the fact that Brown can help the Steelers make some explosive plays in the return game.
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