PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spent part of the bye week looking at trends across the NFL.
One thing that couldn't have escaped the panoramic view he took of the league is how this has been a big year for rookie wide receivers.
From Odell Beckham Jr.'s amazing one-handed catch to Kelvin Benjamin’s eight touchdown grabs in 11 games, rookie wideouts are making an impact across the league, and that includes one of Tomlin’s own players. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant already has six touchdown catches even though the fourth-round draft pick didn’t dress until the Steelers’ seventh game of the season.
But as much acclaim as the rookie wide receivers have generated, this has really been the year of the Class of 2010 wide receivers.
The Steelers, in fact, drafted two of the wide receivers among the top 10 for receiving yards, getting Emmanuel Sanders in the third round and Brown in the sixth round in 2010.
Sanders has had a breakout season after joining the Broncos as a free agent, already establishing career highs in catches (76), receiving yards (1,079) and touchdown receptions (eight).
No one is happier for Sanders, who never quite panned out in Pittsburgh, than Brown.
“I’m excited for him and it’s great to see him doing well,” said Brown, who still keeps in touch with Sanders. “He’s doing a really good job and it’s always great when you’re on the winning side of things and playing with Peyton Manning.”
Sanders has thrived while catching passes from Manning, and he also stayed relatively healthy. As a result, the two wide receivers who grew up together in Pittsburgh could meet again at the Pro Bowl.
Brown smiled when that possibility was posed to him earlier this week.
The fact that he and Sanders are both in the top four in the NFL in catches and receiving yards makes it seem a long time ago that the two often battled for one game day roster spot.
That happened in 2010, when Tomlin often pitted the two in competition with one another and framed it as “two dogs for one bone.”
“I think it just encouraged two rookies when they came into the league to stay hungry and always better themselves,” Brown said.
They have done just that.
In the process, Brown and Sanders have shown that while the rookie wide receivers have more than lived up to the hype, it is another group of wideouts that is reigning supreme right now, with Detroit’s Golden Tate and Dallas’ Dez Bryant also excelling from the Class of 2010.