Antonio Brown doesn't average 99.9 receiving yards per game the last two seasons without chemistry with his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. In a November project by ESPN.com highlighting Brown as a "complete receiver," Brown said if he gets position, "I've got a great quarterback who will give me a chance to win." I spoke to Browns cornerback Joe Haden for that story, and Haden said Brown is "really, really good at feeling where Ben Roethlisberger is and working without the ball."
It's more than a feeling. This is the football alchemy perfected only through hundreds of practice reps.
That's why I asked Roethlisberger, considering he threw Brown's way nearly 30 percent of the time last year: What is your favorite route to throw to Brown?
Roethlisberger said that's difficult to pick, because much of their best work comes on broken plays or when Roethlisberger is under pressure, a process that's also explored in that ESPN project mentioned above.
“Any of them," said Roethlisberger about a favorite route for Brown. "Even when it’s not what it’s supposed to be, it seems to work. I guess that means we’re on the same page. He’s a special player. Probably the best receiver I've ever played with."
There's little doubt about that. Brown is fourth on the Steelers' all-time reception list at age 26. Brown's work has garnered praise from perhaps his biggest competitor in the elite wide receiver market, Detroit's Calvin Johnson.
@NFLTotalAccess can't be mad about that I'm definitely a fan— Calvin Johnson, Jr. (@calvinjohnsonjr) June 23, 2015
Brown's mentality when running a route punctuates why chemistry with Roethlisberger has helped him earn his status.
"You never know where the ball is going to come," Brown said. "That's why you always keep your feet moving, even after you look back at the quarterback. The last thing you want is the QB to overthrow you. When making the catch, you have to go up and attack the ball. This is where doing your power squats and power lunges pays dividends."