With MVP-caliber wide receiver Antonio Brown lost for the rest of the regular season, according to ESPN.com, the Steelers showed a flash Sunday of how they potentially could handle their leading receiver's absence.
Brown reportedly suffered a partially torn left calf muscle in the second quarter of Sunday's 27-24 loss the Patriots and is out until the playoffs at the earliest.
Brown on Monday addressed his injury on Twitter, writing in part: "Even in adversity I can’t help but feel blessed. Thanks to everyone who reached out. This is a minor setback for me but not this team. … We may not have won the game yesterday but this TEAM made a statement."
even in adversity I can’t help but feel blessed. Thanks to everyone who reached out. This is a minor setback for me but not this team. The goal is still the same & I’m confident that we can & will achieve it. We may not have won the game yesterday but this TEAM made a statement. pic.twitter.com/L2drCGim2W
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) December 18, 2017
After Brown left following the injury attempting to make a catch in the end zone, JuJu Smith-Schuster led the way with six catches for 114 yards. Le’Veon Bell added five catches and Martavis Bryant had four. Jesse James, Eli Rogers, Xavier Grimble and Darrius Heyward-Bey also had catches.
“We came together as a group and played hard for our brother,” Bryant said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “He’s the best in the NFL. We just wanted to go out and play hard for him.”
Look for more of the same in Weeks 16 and 17 as the Steelers (11-3) look to keep pace with the Patriots (11-3), who now hold the tiebreaker advantage. Pittsburgh, which closes with the Texans and Browns, has to be in place if New England stumbles against the Bills or Jets.
Just as important: The Steelers want to stay a step ahead of the Jaguars (10-4). The third-place team has to play on wild-card weekend. The Steelers don’t want that, especially given how short-handed they are.
“With a guy of that caliber, the best receiver in the world, when he goes out you have to step up as a receiving corps,” Rogers said.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, for one, was buoyed Sunday by the way his other receivers stepped in for Brown.
“I thought it was awesome,” he said. “I thought guys did some good things. That’s what we expect from guys. How awesome at the end with JuJu? Guys stepped up and did some really good things. I’m really proud of them.”
He was ruled out before the start of the third quarter and reportedly was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. According to NFL Media, the partially torn calf muscle won't require surgery.
Brown earlier in the game became the first receiver in NFL history with five straight 100-reception seasons, was helped off the field without putting any pressure on his left leg.