Ben Roethlisberger: Blame me for Antonio Brown’s low production for Steelers

October 3, 2018

Measured by receiving yards, Antonio Brown’s production is down significantly over the first month of the season. His quarterback is pointing the blame at himself.

“I just think I’ve got to play better to (Brown) get his numbers,” Ben Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday, “which I think in turn will help us get wins.”

Brown has 29 catches for 272 yards through four games this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, his lowest yardage total through the quarter of any season since he became a starter in 2012. Over the six seasons since and prior to this season, Brown averaged 400 receiving yards through the first four games of a season.

Brown’s slump isn’t through lack of Roethlisberger trying, though - far from it. He’s been targeted 53 times so far; he’d never been the target of more than 45 passes through four games in any other season, and his average since he’s been a starter is 42.3 targets over the first one-fourth of the season.

The raw catch production is largely there, too - Brown’s 29 catches this season are roughly his average over the seven season’s he’s been a starter (29.7). The touchdowns (three) are, as well.

The yardage, though, is decidedly not.

Why? Roethlisberger shot down a few theories that reporters presented him with Wednesday.

--Are defenses covering Brown differently? “I mean, we have seen so many things over the past nine years, it’s hard to say there’s anything different.”

--Are teams devoting extra safety help to Brown’s side than they typically have? “Not anymore than they have in the past; he’s always get that safety look leaning. It’s just a matter of me being able to get him the ball.”

--Is the sideline route being taken away? “I haven’t noticed that; it’s just like they always do: two guys on AB, one guy holding one guy watching.”

--Is Brown’s slump the result of predictability or easy-to-read tendencies? “Two of the first three plays (in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore), we had him in the slot. So we move him around; he’s still drawing a lot of attention wherever he goes.”

--Did the offseason trade of Martavis Bryant leave the Steelers with the lack of a true deep threat that frees Brown to do his thing? “Well, Martavis is one of those kind of freaks that doesn’t come along very often in terms of deep-field speed, (like with) Mike Wallace, we’ve (typically) had one guy like that. But guys like JuJu (Smith-Schuster) will probably argue with you that he’s got the deep speed, and I think James (Washington) would say the same thing; Justin Hunter, too. And (Darrius Heyward-Bey) can still run as one of the fastest guys in the league.

“So I think it really just all comes down to me getting the ball to them when they are down the field.”

Who’s slumping more, Brown or Roethlisberger? Roethlisberger’s 90.2 passer rating is his worst through the Steelers’ first four games of the season since 2013, and it would be the fourth-worst over a full season of his 14-year career. His average passer rating through the first quarter of the season since Brown became a starter in 2012 through last season was 98.5.

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