Kevin Gorman: ‘Greatest of all time’ Antonio Brown saves Steelers with circus catch
Seventy yards and 17 seconds stood between the Steelers and a score for a last-minute victory over the Green Bay Packers, seemingly not nearly enough time for a game-winning drive.
That was before Ben Roethlisberger lofted a picture-perfect pass along the Steelers sideline, throwing the ball where only Antonio Brown could catch it. What followed was a catch only Antonio Brown could make.
“He’s the best in the world on the sideline,” Roethlisberger said after the Steelers’ 31-28 victory over the Packers on Sunday night at Heinz Field, “so if it’s even close, I’m not betting against him.”
But you couldn’t believe your eyes on this one.
It was that close. So close that Steelers Nation gasped. So close that the officials hesitated to make the call, conferring with each other before signaling a catch. So close that it still went to a video review. So close that even one Steelers receiver couldn’t believe what he saw.
“I doubted it for a moment there,” said Darrius Heyward-Bey, who stood about 15 yards down the sideline and saw the play from behind. “I thought he was 2 yards out. I saw him drag it, and I know how he plays the game and I was like, ‘That front foot was out.’ Then I was like, ‘Who am I doubting? I’m doubting the best of all time.’
“He’s the greatest of all time. I’ve never seen anything like that. We’re accustomed to seeing that, but we’ve got to understand what we’re seeing: This is the best wide receiver we’ve probably ever seen. That’s crazy. I’m in awe every day in practice, in awe every game.”
Brown had 10 catches (on 12 targets) for 169 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers. His 39-yarder set up Martavis Bryant’s 17-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. Earlier, he had another spectacular sideline grab at the Green Bay 3 to set up his 1-yard score to tie the game at 21-21 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter, and he added a 33-yarder for a 28-21 lead with 8:42 remaining.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Bryant said. “I know what he’s capable of. They don’t call him ‘Tony Toe Tap’ for no reason.”
But we were all in awe of Antonio Brown on this one, a 23-yard gain that gave the Steelers the ball at Green Bay’s 47, a catch that suddenly made everyone believe in the unbelievable.
“That’s poetry in motion, but the crazy thing is he does it every day in practice, so it’s like you’re not really surprised when you see it,” said Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats, who saw the catch up close. “You’re just like, that’s A.B. … That’s the thing with him: He’s going to make those kinds of plays.”
Those kinds of play that you had to see again to believe, which is why everyone at Heinz Field turned to watch the replay on the Jumbotron. Roethlisberger asked running back Le’Veon Bell if Brown was in. Bell said he “knew instantly” that it was a catch. So did everyone else, even if they had to pick up their jaws off the field.
Even Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who called it “obviously a ridiculous” catch, said this when asked if he was confident Brown would make the catch: “That will be the story I tell.”
But Brown knew he had it, knew he had dragged his feet and knew what the call would be even before the officials did.
“Ben made a great throw, put it only where I could get it on the sideline,” Brown said, “and I was just grateful that we could make that catch in the perfect amount of time.”
Now, only 15 seconds and 47 yards stood between the offense and the end zone, which changed the Steelers’ perspective on overtime.
“After that, instead of worrying about us potentially running out of time,” Moats said, “we were like, ‘We’re about to go win this game. Depending on what this next play is, it’s going to determine whether we get a touchdown or kick a field goal.’ That’s instantly where our minds went with it.”
Roethlisberger, of course, went right back to Brown, this time for 14 yards to the Green Bay 33. After a dump pass to Bell for a 2-yard loss, Chris Boswell kicked the winning, 53-yard field goal.
The play ended with a kick through the uprights but started with a catch on the sideline that you had to see again and again to believe.
“I guess with all due respect, not surprised or amazed,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s what he does. He’s just special.”
They don’t call him Tony Toe Tap for nothing.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.