“It has now been made public that two lawsuits containing false claims have been filed against me,” Brown said in a statement provided to PFT and other media outlets. “The facts will soon come out that prove my innocence. My focus will remain on football and I will not let the cases serve as a distraction.”
Antonio Brown says of lawsuits — Facts will prove my innocence
One of the lawsuits was filed by the landlord, claiming that Brown caused $15,000 in damage to the apartment during an alleged fit of rage sparked by the theft of a gun and $80,000 in cash. The other lawsuit arises from the claim that Brown threw furniture and other items from a 14th-floor balcony, nearly hitting a toddler and his grandfather below.
Brown didn’t elaborate on why he believes the claims are false, and no facts have been provided yet to prove his innocence. As the lawsuits proceed, evidence will be developed through the pre-trial discovery process. Barring settlement, a trial eventually will happen.
Brown was not arrested or charged as a result of the incident. However, he could possibly face NFL scrutiny under the Personal Conduct Policy.
Getty Images/Ringer illustration Share Tweet Share Share Antonio Brown Is Approaching the NFLs Receiver Pantheon tweet share Flipboard Email For Antonio Brown, spectacular has become the expectation. Performances like his six-catch, 101-yard, two-touchdown outing in a 41-17 win over the Falcons in Week 5 are the standard. Games that would stand out as the best of other wide receivers careers are simply another day at the office for the 5-foot-10 dynamo. Hes supposed to run circles around secondaries.
A lawsuit filed by the victim contends two very large vases, an ottoman and other pieces of furniture landed just feet away from the child and his grandfather.
Browns relentless consistency has made him the most productive wide receiver of his era. The Steelers star has five straight seasons with at least 100 receptions and 1,284 yards. His worst season over that stretch is arguably 2013, when he corralled 110 passes for 1,499 yards with eight touchdowns. Through five games in 2018, he has 373 receiving yards and five scores—putting him on pace for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Again, an off year for Brown would qualify as a career year for most.
Considering Browns prolific statistical production, it might be time to change the way we discuss his legacy. At age 30, he is no longer just the best wideout in a golden era for the position. He deserves to be mentioned alongside some of the greatest receivers ever. I think where he has the advantage [over his peers] is him being a full and a complete wide receiver, Randy Moss says of Brown. Where you can move him at in the offense. Theres not a route in the route tree that he cannot run. There isnt a combination that you can put over there that he cannot do. So, what makes him and separates him from the other wide receivers is what he is able to do for an offense.
Many analysts have attempted to explore what makes Brown so effective. The hope here was to go further. Rather than judge his game against that of Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and A.J. Green, the goal was to gain a better understanding of Browns historical significance and where his path might take him. And who better to assess Browns place in the receiver pantheon than some of the legends already immortalized there? The Ringer spoke to five Hall of Fame receivers—nearly one-quarter of the wideouts enshrined in Canton—about their feelings on Brown as a player, whether hes already worthy of a gold jacket, and where he belongs in the positions all-time pecking order.
Every Hall of Fame receiver interviewed for this story brought up the same word when asked about Brown: consistency. Browns ability to put up massive numbers with almost no vacillation from season to season is notable to even some of the best to ever do it. How many seasons in a row, five, that hes had over 100 catches? Steelers great Lynn Swann asks of Brown. When you talk about how receivers differentiate themselves from the other receivers in the league in the time period in which they play, its that high level of consistency.
In Cris Carters mind, Browns consistency isnt the byproduct of one singular skill. Over the years, Brown has shown that he can fill any type of receiver role depending on the situation. Hes proved devastating when lining up in the slot, and hes equally adept at playing outside. In either scenario, hes the most advanced route runner in football; no other active receiver has more refined footwork or a better feel for how to change speeds to execute concepts. His overall releases are phenomenal, Carter says. Typically, [with] a small guy, you want to bump him to really throw off his timing. But hes gotten so good as far as his releases [go] that you cant.
Browns technical proficiency doesnt come about on its own, and Carter has unique insight into the work habits that have propelled Brown to such lofty heights. Carter has known Browns trainer, Ron DeAngelo, since his own playing days. At the beginning of Browns career, the wideout wasnt focused on properly maintaining his body. Hed eat anything and didnt prioritize getting the right amount of sleep. He always worked hard, but he didnt have a plan, Carter says. Now, hes like a CEO of a corporation.
For Carter, that plan—and Browns relentless pursuit of greatness—is the driving force behind his ongoing march toward history. Browns streak over the past five years already gives him the most seasons with at least 1,200 receiving yards, 100 receptions, and eight touchdowns. Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice are tied for second with four apiece. Harrison went on a comparable run with Peyton Manning: From the quarterbacks second season in 1999 through 2003, Harrison hit each benchmark except for the reception total in 2003 (he fell six short, with 94). Rice never had a streak of consecutive seasons that parallels Browns, but thats a result of there being fewer passes attempted during his era. In 1987, Rice caught 22 touchdown passes on 65 receptions. If Brown scored at that rate last season, he would have had 34 touchdowns.
Its tough to pick out the best five-year run of Rices career because the body of work is so daunting. From 1989 to 1993, though, he averaged 88.8 receptions, 1,379 yards, and 13.8 touchdowns per season—all while his quarterback surpassed 4,000 passing yards in a season just once. There can be only one GOAT, but Browns five-year run stacks up with any stretch a wide receiver has ever produced. It has a lot to do with practice, Carter says. You cannot play at that level unless you practice at an extreme level. I know the people that train him. I know his regimen. He is preparing himself, every year, for what he is doing. And every year, hes always trying to add one or two things to what hes already done to make him even better.
One of Browns distinct advantages over most receivers his size is that hes able to impact the game the way a taller receiver would. Brown plays like a 6-foot-4 wideout trapped inside a 5-foot-10 players body. Carter calls 6-foot-3, 220-pound Julio Jones the receiver youd build from scratch, and mentions him alongside Brown as the contemporary talents he most enjoys watching. But Carter, who ranks fourth in NFL history with 130 career receiving touchdowns, admits that Jones doesnt score a lot. Finding the end zone matters deeply to a man who once inspired former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan to say, All he does is catch touchdowns, and Browns nose for pay dirt is among Carters favorite facets of his game. Brown, who entered the league in 2010, has 64 career touchdown receptions—21 more than Jones (a rookie in 2011). Hes a volume receiver whos also a volume scorer, Carter says. For me, I always give the advantage to the guys who have that art form of scoring because not all wide receivers have that.
Carter notes that Brown has been able to get into the end zone routinely despite lacking the physical dimensions of Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. That hasnt been lost on Moss, either. The diminutive Brown is one of the top receivers in football in contested catches every season: In 2017, he led the league with 22 contested catches and finished eighth in contested catch percentage (51.2 percent). He has a knack for tracking the ball in the air and timing his jump just right, and that allows him to pull down throws even when hes going against defensive backs who have a significant size advantage. Its very impressive because you see defenses trying to put double, sometimes buzz a third [defender] up under there sometimes, Moss says. Youve seen the ball thrown, youve seen the ball in the air, and then somehow between two guys hes coming up with it. Thats something that I was able to do.
Moss doesnt think Browns deep-ball talents necessarily resemble his, but as hes transitioned into a studio analyst role, hes begun to appreciate the nuances of other types of receiver play. In that regard, Moss places Brown in a special class. You have some wide receivers that only can play the slot, or they only can play the outside receiver, or they can only be on a certain side when theres multiple wide receivers, Moss says. Antonio Brown, you can put him in a bunch, multiple receivers, you can put him backside by himself. He can still make plays. Theres nothing he cant do in an offense.
Browns comfort in just about every alignment makes his place in the Steelers offense unpredictable. In Seahawks legend Steve Largents mind, its also made the Pittsburgh star virtually unstoppable. What impresses Largent most about Brown isnt his versatility or flair for the theatric. Its that hes dependable, week in and week out. One of the things that I always tried to make a hallmark of my playing career is dependability, says Largent, who finished his career with 13,089 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns. Hes a guy thats dependable for the Steelers offense.
Even as a casual observer of the modern game, Largent has locked onto how few passes thrown to Brown ever hit the ground. Despite his absurd target volume over the past five seasons (at least 154 targets per year), Brown has never finished with a catch rate of lower than 62 percent. Browns career catch percentage of 65.5 ranks sixth all time among pass catchers with at least 500 receptions. Brown has finished in the top 15 in drop rate in each of the past five seasons; three times, hes finished within the top 10. That infallibility is a big part of why Largent thinks Brown is a shoo-in to one day join him in the Hall of Fame.
The only thing that separates [Brown] from a Hall of Famer, and Im thinking about Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, is longevity, Largent says. I would say that if he continues to catch passes the way that hes been catching them for the past five, he does that for another five, six, seven years, hes a slam dunk.
Brown may already be destined for Canton. The question is how high he can rise in the all-time receiver rankings in the time he has left in the league.
Swann wants to make clear that he isnt jealous of Browns situation. Why would I need to be jealous? Swann says. I have four Super Bowl rings, was the MVP of a Super Bowl, and Im in the Hall of Fame. He will admit, though, that he is envious of the pass-happy approach that has come to define the NFL. Id love to had been in a situation where theyd thrown more passes and have more opportunities to make catches and make plays. But from my standpoint, I think myself and John Stallworth, we took advantage of our opportunities as well as anybody could take advantage of them in those days.
Stallworth says that he recently joked about the modern-day NFL with Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris. In todays game, their roles would have been reversed. Rather than committing to the run-first philosophy that the dominant 1970s Steelers favored, the 2010s Pittsburgh offenses are happy to open things up and toss the ball to Brown a dozen times per game. In our era, you were fortunate to be targeted four or five [times a game], and you needed to make the most of those four or five, Stallworth says. Its different. Its fun. Would I have loved to play at this time? Id love to have played right now.
For several of these legendary receivers, the biggest hesitation in anointing Brown as one the greatest to ever live is rooted in the difficulty of sizing up receivers across eras. The way that football styles and rules have evolved since even the early days of Mosss career make comparing Brown with, say, Chargers legend Lance Alworth (who tallied more than 10,000 receiving yards and scored 85 touchdowns during his 11-year career), nearly impossible. They throw more now, they do less running, the game has changed, Moss says. Now, I think hes the best in todays generation, but to rank him with Terrell Owens, myself, Jerry Rice, all those guys that really put the work in, I really cant put him in that class—yet.
Largent agrees that many fundamental elements of being an NFL receiver have changed, something that extends all the way to the equipment. The gloves they wear—those gloves make a difference, Largent says. Ive worn them. Ive tried them on. They make a huge difference in a receivers ability to catch a football. Still, the former Seahawks great doesnt dock Browns standing because of his gear, much less his astonishing target share. After all, while increases in usage typically come with decreases in efficiency, that isnt the case with Brown. His 8.77 yards per target ranks fifth since targets became an official NFL statistic in 1992. Thats just 0.01 yards and one spot behind Moss in the career rankings. The issue [with punishing him for his high target total] is theyre still throwing the ball to him a lot, but theyre only doing it because its successful, Largent says. If he wasnt catching as many balls as he is, they wouldnt be throwing as many balls his way.
As Swann determines where a player falls in the all-time receiver hierarchy, he considers a few factors. First, as previously mentioned, is consistency. Second is a knack for making the big play in the big moment. [And making it] when everybody knows that youre the primary target, Swann says. Third-and-long situations. Critical situations. Hell come up with the catch, the yardage, the touchdown.
Stallworth points to Browns crucial touchdown from the final seconds of Pittsburghs 31-27 win over the Ravens in Week 16 of the 2016 season, when Brown willed his way across the goal line to clinch a playoff berth. Youve got to make that play, Stallworth says. If you dont make that play, you dont achieve the goal of winning that game, but you [also] dont achieve the goal of getting to the playoffs. That to me, is no. 1. Above the highlights on the various television programs, or winning postseason honors—Pro Bowls, All-Pro, and all that—is performing within the confines of your team and doing what your team needs done to be successful, and being a factor in getting them there. As a Steeler, thats no. 1.
Swanns third criterion is how a receiver performs in the playoffs. And that, he says, is where Brown still has work to do. Browns career postseason numbers are excellent. Hes averaged 113 yards per game during Pittsburghs past four playoff appearances, and has caught four touchdowns in six total games. The problem is that three of those postseason trips have ended after one game. Brown has never won a Super Bowl. While the Hall of Famers interviewed acknowledge that a receiver cant go it alone, Browns lack of a title remains a black mark on his résumé.
Brown doesnt have a signature playoff run that can compare to the one Larry Fitzgerald put together in 2009, and thats particularly important considering the debate that will happen should Brown continue his current trajectory. On the list of the best receivers in NFL history, the no. 3 spot appears to be there for the taking. Jerry Rice and Moss are the clear-cut choices at no. 1 and no. 2, but the third spot is the subject of debate. Some find Packers great Don Hutson deserving of that distinction, owing to his statistical dominance compared to the players of his era. Others contend that Alworth, Owens, or Fitzgerald own the no. 3 spot. As of Week 5 this season, Fitzgerald ranks third all time in career receptions (1,251), third in receiving yards (15,721), and eighth in receiving touchdowns (110). And hes done it all while playing with a rotating cast of subpar quarterbacks (outside of a few scattered seasons with Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer).
If Brown can continue lighting up scoreboards with the Steelers, hell enter the discussion soon enough. Brown ranks 41st in NFL history with 10,283 career receiving yards. If he closes out this season at 11,000 (which is well within range), thatd put him 4,939 yards behind Owens for second place all time. With four more average seasons by Browns standards, hed pass Owens and rank behind only Rice.
That might have been impossible to imagine a few years ago, considering that Brown started his career as an afterthought sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan. But now hes within range. Some of the best receivers ever need to see more, though, before theyre willing to grant Brown access into the most exclusive club a pass catcher can join. I mean, he will have on a gold jacket, hands down, he will have a gold jacket on, Moss says. But to put him, you know, in the elite category with the all-time greats, I dont think hes there yet. Give him about five, six more years—but he has to play at this high level.
An earlier version of this piece stated that Brown had never reached a Super Bowl. He made one catch for 1 yard in Pittsburghs 31-25 loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.