(Editor's Note: With the offseason in full swing, the focus is now shifting to the 2016 season, where the Cowboys have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Not only do the Cowboys face five playoff teams but many of the top players in football. So the writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys. Today, we continue the list with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.)
Name: Antonio Brown
Experience: 6 seasons
College: Central Michigan
2016 vs. Cowboys:The Steelers resume their inter-conference rivalry with Dallas in Week 10 (Nov. 13) at Heinz Field. It's the 32nd meeting between the franchises, including three Super Bowls (X, XIII, XXX). The Cowboys lead the all-time series, 16-15.
What's the Deal: A sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2010, Brown was never billed as a future superstar. Six years, four Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro selections later, the 28-year-old wideout is as dynamic as any offensive player in today's NFL. He has three straight 100-catch seasons, and his 375 catches since 2013 are the most ever by a league receiver. He has averaged 10 touchdowns in the last three seasons, reaching the end zone in 22 of his last 48 games. To top it all off, Brown has four career punt return touchdowns, including three in the last three years.
Expect This: Brown has an uncanny gift for getting separation from defenders whether he lines up outside or in the slot. As good as he is, he rarely sees single coverage for an entire game. The Cowboys ranked fifth in pass defense last season, and they'll benefit from Orlando Scandrick's return from injury. Working in slot throughout his career, Scandrick is used to covering smaller, quicker receivers. Brown presents arguably the toughest challenge all year for the Cowboys' secondary – and the special teams units, too, if he remains the Steelers' punt returner.
Previous Meetings: In his only career appearance against the Cowboys, Brown had a game-high eight catches for 76 yards and one touchdown in a 2012 overtime loss at AT&T Stadium. His touchdown gave the Steelers a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, but a fumbled punt return put the Cowboys in position to tie the game and force overtime.
Bryan Broaddus Scouting Report:
- Plays faster than recorded 40 time. Shows rare ability to separate in routes. Tremendous acceleration and burst. Can work anywhere on the field that you need him - hitches, bubble screens are all part of the package with him. Has developed as a route runner because he didn't have that ability in college. Route tree was very limited.
- Knows how to set up defensive backs and move them up the field. Can cut on a dime to change direction. Have to respect his ability to get open.
- Soft consistent hands to pluck the ball, put it away, and burst up the field. Steelers do a great job of working to get him in space where he wins battles with quickness and elusiveness. A nightmare to have to deal with in the open field. Super productive receiver.
- Good field vision and awareness. Played in college as a punt and kickoff returner, and you see those traits and skills with the ball in his hands.
- Has been durable over his career. Were some questions about his ability to play on the outside due to his size – viewed more as a slot option but has really become a complete player.
- Gets off the line with quickness and into routes in a hurry. Came up with 136 receptions on 193 targets.
- Big time clutch player. Difference maker in every sense of the word. Despite his lack of size is a rugged player. Can function well in any weather conditions and excel.
The writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys.