Steelers marvel at Antonio Brown: 'He's just special'

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have an unofficial rule for practices or games: If you question whether Antonio Brown made the sideline catch, don't question it anymore. Don't even challenge it.

"He's the best in the world on the sideline," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "If it's even close, I'm not betting against him."

Teammates weren't surprised in the slightest by Brown's 23-yard, toe-tapping catch with 13 seconds left, which helped set up the winning field goal in a 31-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. Roethlisberger saw the officials standing in amazement, like, 'Did he really do it?' even though Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell already knew the play was secured.

They feel spoiled, in a way, because Brown keeps shattering his own expectations.

After 169 yards Sunday, Brown's 1,195 receiving yards are the most of his career through the first 11 games of the season. He's on pace for a fifth straight 100-catch season, which never has been done in NFL history.

At least one teammate, Darrius Heyward-Bey, is telling reporters that Brown might be the greatest of all time. Brown, flanked by three of his children at the podium, deflected such comparisons, saying he's got a long way to go to catch players such as Jerry Rice.

But he has mastered the art of improvising with Roethlisberger, who said his primary goal on the final drive with 17 seconds left and two timeouts was simple: Find AB.

"Ben made a great throw, put it only where I could get it," Brown said. "I was just grateful we could make that catch in the perfect amount of time."

Brown also caught a 14-yarder around the same sideline spot to secure a 53-yard field goal attempt for Chris Boswell, which he made as time expired. Roethlisberger said he had missed Brown on a sideline throw from the previous drive, so he made sure to put it on him this time.

On the 23-yard catch, Brown was outstretched with his left foot down and his right toe dragging as he snatched the ball.

'They don't call him Tony Toe Tap for no reason," wide receiver Martavis Bryant said.

"I'm not surprised or amazed," said Roethlisberger, who finished with 351 passing yards and connected on 10 first downs with Brown. "He's just special."

Bell has seen crazier catches from Brown in practices, but even he had to chuckle at what he saw earlier in the game: Packers covering Brown with what he calls a "double vice" package, with defensive backs inside and outside of him.

After all that, Brown still outdid his one-handed helmet touchdown catch from the week before.

"I literally had to laugh in the backfield, like, wow, that's how much they respect AB," Bell said. "Never ceases to surprise me."

When asked what his secret is, Brown said there is none, just "hard work, dedication."

And the ability to save the day for the Steelers on an off night.