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30 year old Antonio Brown won’t "pay attention to my age"

7/11/2018 11:26:14 AM
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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is coming off a five-year stretch that reset the game's standard for open-field playmaking. In his 20s, Brown used his breathtaking footwork to create separation in the discussion of the game's best modern wide receiver. He's made the 100-catch season more a ho-hum expectation than an achievement. On July 10, he turned 30, a number often stigmatized in an increasingly youth-centric game.

No one trains quite like Brown, teammates say. "I don't pay attention to my age," Brown told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. "I'm feeling great, I'm healthy and I'm in great shape. I feel as long as I have that, I can continue to be productive." There's no question about Brown's youthful exuberance. He rarely sits still for long, bouncing to various gyms and football fields around the country each offseason. From Russell Wilson to high school kids, he'll train with anyone. The way Brown sees it, refine the skills, and the numbers will follow. "Life is all about challenges and working to be the best," Brown said. "You never want to limp away from the game."

From a numbers standpoint, catching Jerry Rice and his NFL-record 1,549 receptions and 22,895 yards will be a big challenge for Brown, who has averaged 1,239 receiving yards and 91.6 catches per season so far in his career.

Every receiver suffers a drop-off eventually, but Brown can prolong things with durability, a graceful skill set and elite quarterback play. Brown hasn't missed more than three games in a season since becoming a starter in 2012, relying on small-space quickness and savvy over power and size. Many of Brown's catches come from near-indefensible plays along the sideline and navigating open pockets of grass with Ben Roethlisberger, who says he plans to play at least another three years.

"We've got a pretty good connection," Roethlisberger said. "It's something special what you see on Sundays between him and I." Brown's biggest hurdle might be an uncertain supporting cast. With Martavis Bryant traded and Le'Veon Bell facing another franchise tag, Brown needs JuJu Smith-Schuster and rookie James Washington to draw safety help. Still, Brown has routinely solved double-team problems in the past. If he keeps his knees healthy, getting open should remain a way of life for Brown.

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