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Antonio Brown's quest for 150 catches is on, and it's real

Antonio Brown is no longer keepin' it 100. He keeps it somewhere between 130 and 150, depending on the year.

Catching passes is Brown's love language. Brown now owns two of the NFL's four highest reception totals in a single season. After his 136-catch campaign in 2015, Brown has one player left to catch -- Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, the former Indianapolis Colts star who went for 143 receptions in 2002.

After 14 years, Harrison might soon be in second place.

This isn't hyperbole. It's not really a prediction. It's an acknowledgement that the game's best receiver is in his prime (Brown turns 28 in July), has astounding chemistry with one of the game's best quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger) and has continually surpassed expectations over the past three years.

There are a few factors that could slide Brown past Harrison and even past -- wait for it -- the 150-catch mark.

Yes, really.

Incremental growth: Since catching 110 passes in 2013, Brown has increased his reception total by an average of 11.3 percent the past two seasons. That's 129 in 2014 (17 percent over the previous year) and 136 last year (5.4 percent).

A 10.3 percent increase would get Brown to 150 this year.

That's a significant jump, but playing the percentages gives Brown a chance.

If Roethlisberger is healthy ...: In 12 games together last season, Big Ben and Brown connected 9.91 times per week. That's 158.7 over a full season. Give these guys another full 16 and watch the world burn.

Defensive schemes, matchups, time of possession -- all are factors that affect receiver production. And you can argue how effective Brown would be with a lesser quarterback. But there are certain things Brown and Roethlisberger do that are indefensible. The deep out against the zone, for one, is almost impossible to guard.

Time to earn: Brown has two years left on his six-year, $43 million contract, but this is really like a contract year for him because the Steelers will do business with him in earnest during the 2017 offseason.

Brown must get something done quickly to become one of the game's highest-paid playmakers while maintaining his prime years. The timing should be right for Brown, but another huge year will help remind the Steelers of that.

Favorable matchups: Richard Sherman showed last year that lanky, physical corners can give Brown problems, as the Seahawks held Brown to six catches for 51 yards at Seattle in Week 12. But Brown doesn't play Sherman this year, and he has had success against almost everyone else.

The best corner he'll face in 2016 might be New England's Malcolm Butler, who covered Brown exclusively in Week 1 last year. Brown finished with nine catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in a game Pittsburgh played without Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell.

Watch out for the Week 4 matchup with the Chiefs' Marcus Peters, who has decent size at 6-0 and showed deftness at jumping passing lanes as a rookie.

A few potential pitfalls: The offense must find its rhythm after losing Bryant for the year and Heath Miller to retirement. That could take time and could go one of two ways in the first few weeks: Brown could get more catches, or the Steelers will run the ball more. Either way, this is an unknown variable worth following.

Brown and Roethlisberger are just now getting back to work. Brown did "Dancing with the Stars." Roethlisberger's wife just had a baby, postponing the usual lake house trip to Georgia for Big Ben and the receivers. The next three months are crucial for this group. And if the Steelers struggle to find a vertical threat, Brown will face even more double-teams.

Brown is keeping an open mind, open hands and a few double moves ready.

"We have a long way until the fall to see how defenses are going to play without Martavis being out there," Brown said. "I have to get my body and mind prepared being able to beat two guys, whatever the challenge may be."