By Nick Shook
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The Steelers are getting their most important weapon back in time for their first playoff game.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf) will be at full strength for Pittsburgh’s divisional contest next week, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Had Pittsburgh played in the wild card round, Brown would have been ready to go, Rapoport added.
Brown has not played since suffering a calf injury in Pittsburgh’s 27-24 loss to New England in Week 15.
Brown’s value to Pittsburgh’s offense and its Super Bowl aspirations cannot be overstated. Arguably the league’s best receiver, Brown adds a big-play dimension matched only by the likes of Julio Jones in the NFL. Brown led the NFL in receiving in only 14 games, catching 101 passes for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns. That type of production is a massive addition, no matter the team.
Brown’s absence was incredibly noticeable in Pittsburgh’s biggest game of the regular season when on the doorstep of a game-winning touchdown, Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have a surefire target to turn to. Instead, he attempted to force a pass over the middle, which was tipped and intercepted by the Patriotssafety Duron Harmon. Had Brown been on the field during that sequence (and earlier, when Pittsburgh failed to convert when clinging to a small lead), that game very easily could have resulted in a win for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh welcomes its wild-card opponent to Heinz Field next weekend. With a healthy Brown, the path back to a Lombardi — Pittsburgh’s been trumpeting it as the Stairway to Seven since 2010 — becomes much more realistic.