Wide receiver Justin Brown has been labeled the early surprise of Steelers training camp by a number of veteran players.
He isn’t quite sure what all the fuss is about after spending last season on the practice squad.
“I really can’t tell you why things are clicking,” said Brown, who was a sixth-round draft pick in 2013. “Last year, I guess I was thinking way too much. I’d have a good practice and then a not-so-good one. I lacked consistency.This year, having a season of this offense under my belt, I feel much more confident. And I have been much more consistent.”
Brown, 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, was only able to play one receiver position last year. Now he can play all three positions, which will help his chances of making the 53-man roster.
“He’s my pick for the most improved player since last season,” backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said Thursday. “He’s really stepped it up. He’s learned a lot. He’s really playing confident. He’s a big, physical receiver, and he’s just doing the right things and making the plays. He’s doing well.”
Brown, who began his college career at Penn State and transferred to Oklahoma for his final season when the Nittany Lions’ program was hit with NCAA sanctions, likely finds himself in a three-way battle with Rochester’s Derek Moye and Darrius Heyward-Bey for a roster spot.
Antonio Brown is the No. 1 receiver. Veteran Lance Moore, 2013 third-round pick Markus Wheaton and 2014 fourth-rounder Martavis Bryant figure to make the roster.
“I don’t want to get caught up in that game worrying about the numbers,” Brown said. “I’m not even thinking about it. I’m just trying to work hard and get better every day.
“I felt like by the end of last year, I had made a real big leap. Just practicing every day and going against (defensive backs) Cortez (Allen), Ike (Taylor) and Will (Allen) made me better and helped improve my skills.”
Brown and Moye, an undrafted free agent who beat out Brown last season for a roster spot and caught two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown in seven games, played together at Penn State and are good friends.
One huge advantage Brown has over Moye is his ability to play special teams.
“Derek and I just both plan to play hard and whatever happens, happens,” Brown said. “In the end, who does or doesn’t make the roster is not our decision. We can’t control that.”