Santana Moss said it best in 2000.
via YouTube Capture
After the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles that year, Moss emotionally proclaimed the profound statement on air, stating what always holds true. We see it in every sport, no matter male or female. When it’s time to make a play, especially one to win the game, who wants the ball in their hands? Who is willing to take the big shot or make the tough catch? Who wants it more? This is what separates good players from great players, superstars from great players and, ultimately, MVPs from the All Stars.
In the NFL, making the big play can transform an individual into a legend, or, at the very least, one of the best to do it. We’ve witnessed greatness through names like Montana, Favre and Brady, players who possess ice water in their veins and who refuse to let their team lose. When most would falter, they stand tall, put the team on their shoulders and rise above to victory.
In the sport of football, its almost a given that quarterbacks get the first nod at the award, but many forget that for every pass thrown, a receiver is on the other end of the play, helping elevate the stats and status of what is considered to be the premier position on the field. Some of the greatest wide receivers are part of the lore and success of these quarterbacks. Names like Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Michael Irvin and Marvin Harrison have been some of the biggest reasons why Joe Montana, Steve Young, Troy Aikman and eventually Peyton Manning, have their busts enshrined in Canton.
No matter the name or statistics, receivers never get the love they deserve. But this year, one wide receiver should be recognized as a serious MVP candidate. The Steelers’ Antonio Brown.
Antonio Brown is the top graded WR in the NFL
For full disclosure, I am a diehard Steelers fan and always have been. But my loyalty is not dictating why I say Brown deserves it. I say it because he damn sure deserves it.
There has never been a wide receiver who has won the NFL MVP. Even the great Jerry Rice, with 22,895 yards receiving and 208 TDs (both all time records) never won the award. Out of the 62 League MVPs awarded since 1957, only three players have not been either quarterbacks or running backs. Alan Page (defensive tackle, Vikings) won it in 1971, Mark Mosely (kicker, Redskins) won it in the strike shortened season of 1982 and Lawrence Taylor (linebacker, Giants) won it in 1986.
But AB has both the stats and the performances to back up his claim to be MVP, and he proved it again on Monday night in one of the biggest rivalry games in the NFL, the Steelers vs Ravens. Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards (136 yards in the fourth quarter alone) against one the top defenses in the league.
But it wasn’t just the total yards, but when the catches were made and how they were made that contributes to Brown’s MVP-demanding season. He caught a low pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter when they needed a first down, and then he caught a deep ball when they needed to get into field goal range also in that same quarter. As has been the norm over the last five years, AB has been there when the team needed him most, making the crucial catch the team needed and at the time in which they needed it most. Last week he did exactly that as well, going high to catch a TD from Big Ben at the end of the game and holding onto the pass after getting cracked in the head by Bengals safety George Iloka.
Antonio Brown oh my god. #Steelers https://t.co/6hTjjF8ahQ
This season, Brown has 99 catches for 1,509 yards and 9 TDs. He leads the league in receptions, receiving yards, receiving TDs and receiving yards per game. They double team him consistently and it doesn’t matter. AB finds a way to get open and catch the ball, despite the difficulty of the catch or the defenders swarming around him.
Over the last five seasons, Brown basically stands alone as the best receiver in the NFL. People can argue about Julio Jones all they want, but just look at what AB has done.
2013 110 catches for 1,499 yards and 8 TDs
2014 129 catches for 1,698 yards and 13 TDs
2015 136 catches for 1,834 yards and 10 TDs
2016 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 TDs
2017 99 catches for 1,509 yards and 9 TDs (through 13 games)
That’s 580 catches for 7,824 yards and 52 TDs over the last five seasons, and he still has three games remaining this year. If he maintains his current 2017 averages, he would end up this season with 122 catches for 1,857 yards and 11 TDs. During that same span, Julio Jones has amassed 8,771 yards receiving and 43 TDs on 570 catches. AB has four Pro Bowl appearances during this span and Jones has three.
But when a big play is needed, Roethlisberger always looks for #84 and AB is always there for him. That’s a big factor which separates the two best in the game. Brown is always there.
Moss said it best when he stated “Big time players step up in big games,” and when it comes to the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, Moss’ statement could not hold any more water.
He shook Kansas City up with this game clinching catch back in October.
Yeah… @AB84 caught that. PIT 19 | KC 10 https://t.co/ZXcMejFEGh
He had another helmet catch against the Titans on November 16th (the first was in the 2011 playoff game against the Ravens).
Then he had an absolutely ridiculous series in week 12 against the Packers with :12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter (start the video at the 9:42 mark). First he snagged the ball on the sidelines while dragging his right foot inbounds to get the Steelers closer to field goal range. Two seconds later, he caught a 13 yard pass to set up the game winning field goal. A week later came the aforementioned Bengals game, followed by tonight’s amazing game against the Ravens.
On a night where he helped his team beat their arch rivals, clinch the AFC North title and move up two spots on the all time receiving yards list (passing Marques Colston and Drew Hill) through big catches and big plays, Antonio Brown once again proved his value to both the team and the entire league.
It’s time the League, fans and voters recognize the MVP value and stature of wide receivers, and Antonio Brown is the perfect player to make history for this underappreciated and under-rewarded position.
This season, the leaders for the award are Tom Brady, Brown’s teammate Le’Veon Bell and, before he got hurt last night, the Eagles’ Carson Wentz. But AB is one of the best players in the game today, regardless of position. A big time player who steps up big in big games and always comes through in the crucial moments.
Now it’s time that he, and all of the great receivers before him, were rewarded in a big way, and that’s through the NFL MVP award being handed to #84 from the black and yellow.
AB = MVP.