Brown emerges as a No. 1 wide receiver

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
4:30
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers know what they are up against Sunday when they try to contain Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

“You can’t stop Calvin Johnson with one man,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “Sometimes you can’t stop him with three.”

Teams have tried just about everything to stop Johnson, who has the second-most receiving yards in NFL history after 100 games. They have even tried covering him as if he is a gunner on the punt coverage team, using two players to hinder him from getting off the line of scrimmage.

As much hype as Johnson is getting -- and deservedly so -- it is worth noting that another No. 1 wide receiver will be playing Sunday at Heinz Field.

Antonio Brown, leads the NFL in receptions (67) and is fifth in receiving yards (805). The Steelers wideout has 14 more catches than Johnson even though Johnson has been targeted one more time than Brown this season.

True, Johnson deals with a double-team on a consistent basis -- he said he draws single coverage roughly 30 percent of the time -- and is a considerably bigger deep threat than Brown in more ways than one.

But Brown has established himself enough that Johnson took notice of the fourth-year veteran while watching film of the Steelers this week.

“He’s a playmaker,” Johnson said. “He’s real quick, a good route runner.”

Ben Roethlisberger said Brown is at his best when a pass is in the air.

“His ball awareness and skill is probably like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” the Steelers quarterback said. “He’s a hard worker, has a great ability to adjust to any throw. I’ve never seen anyone adjust to a ball the way he does.”

That attribute is what separates Brown from Mike Wallace, who has world-class speed but struggles to adjust while the ball is in the air and rarely fights for it.

Brown has answered questions about whether he could emerge as a true No. 1 receiver after Wallace signed with the Dolphins last March -- though he said Johnson is “absolutely” the best in the NFL at the position.

The 5-foot-10, 186-pounder was asked if he would trade his speed for Johnson’s size.

“I wouldn’t trade anything,” Brown said. “I appreciate everything I have and am thankful for everything that I am able to do.”

But, he added, “It would be great to be 6-5.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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