Ron Cook: Roethlisberger, Brown virtually unstoppable
September 12, 2016 12:00 AM
Nick Wass / Associated Press
Washington’s Josh Norman will be the first this seasonto challenge the Steelers’ dynamic duo of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown.
Matt Freed / Post-Gazette
Receiver Antonio Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are hoping to set Steelers records together.
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Scouts from 15 NFL teams were at the Pitt-Penn State game Saturday. A conversation with one turned to the Steelers’ chances of winning the AFC North Division and perhaps the Super Bowl. It didn’t take long for the scout to get to Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.
“If the line can protect Ben and keep him healthy, they are unstoppable.”
Washington’s Josh Norman might have something to say about that tonight when the Steelers and Redskins play at FedExField. He’s the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback with a five-year, $75 million contract, including $50 million guaranteed. “I’m the best cornerback on Earth,” Norman told ESPN.com.
The matchup with Brown will be must-see television.
I’m betting on Brown and Roethlisberger.
Both players are driven to win championships. Roethlisberger came into the NFL a lifetime ago with a goal of matching, if not surpassing, Terry Bradshaw’s four Super Bowl wins. At 34 and starting his 13th season, with two titles, he’s running out of time, although you probably don’t want to mention that to him.
But Roethlisberger knows the history of the game and understands his place in it. He will make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, unquestionably. But he knows, with Brown, he has a chance to leave a legacy that will rival any quarterback and wide receiver.
“I think the thing that he and I like to talk about is setting all kinds of Steelers record and NFL records together, which means we have to play for a few years together and play those years at a high level,” Roethlisberger said last week. “That’s kind of our motivation. Obviously, it’s to win championships, but also to be considered one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos of all time.”
This could be the season Roethlisberger and Brown take another big step in that direction. Roethlisberger is among league favorites for MVP with Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Brown has a really good chance to break Marvin Harrison’s single-season NFL record of 143 catches and Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 receiving yards. He easily would have broken both records last season when he had 136 catches for 1,834 yards if Roethlisberger hadn’t missed four games and parts of four others with injuries.
Roethlisberger and Brown need each other, just like Bradshaw needed Lynn Swann and John Stallworth and Joe Montana needed Jerry Rice.
“There’s so much trust and belief that I have in him and he has in me,” Roethlisberger said late last season. “We get mad at each other — I get mad at myself, he gets mad at himself — when we don’t connect. We want to make every play.”
The Steelers will be without Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton and Ladarius Green tonight, but, as long as Roethlisberger has Brown and their superb offensive line, the offense will be hard to stop.
“We welcome the challenge,” Roethlisberger said. “We don’t like not having everyone on the field, but we have to step up and the young guys have to step up and new guys have to step up. We have to take pride as an offense of not being a one- or a two-man show. We want everyone to be involved in a big way.”
Brown certainly needs Roethlisberger. He averaged roughly 10 catches for 133 yards in the 12 regular-season games last year when Roethlisberger started or was the primary quarterback and had seven catches for 119 yards in the playoff win against Cincinnati. He averaged four catches for 59 yards with Michael Vick or Landry Jones at quarterback. If Roethlisberger-to-Brown had maintained the same pace over 16 games last season, Brown would have finished with 159 catches for 2,132 yards. No wonder the Fantasy Football geeks love him so much. No wonder the Steelers love him.
“He wants to be the best, maybe the best ever,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said.
“He is extremely talented,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “The secret is there is no secret. He is extremely talented and he has a work ethic to match. Together, it is lethal.”
Norman might argue.
Ron Cook: email@example.com and Twitter @RonCookPG. Ron Cook can be heard on the “Cook and Poni” weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
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