NASHVILLE – Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin never had to figure out what to do with A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf at the same time. And he gives the impression that he is just fine with that.
“When (Brown) and Metcalf came out of Ole Miss, it was a freakshow,” Tomlin said last season before his team faced the Tennessee Titans, “and it continues to be that.”
The difference now is that the two oversized, hyper-athletic wide receivers are solo acts instead of the imposing duo that they were for three years together in college. Brown has been the Titans’ leading receiver each of his two years in the NFL while Metcalf – along with Tyler Lockett – is part of one of the league’s most prolific receiving tandems.
Sunday, when the Titans (0-1) face the Seahawks (1-0) in Seattle, it will be the first time Brown and Metcalf, who were not only teammates but also roommates at Ole Miss, will be together on the same field as professionals.
At least Tennessee’s defense has an idea of what to expect when it comes to Metcalf given that it gets to practice against Brown. The vast majority of NFL teams are not so lucky.
“Both of those guys – the size and the speed, you know – you can compare them however you want to do it,” Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “I’m pretty sure both of those guys feel they’re a little different, just because of the teams they play on and the things that they do, but both are great players. And I’m really looking forward to seeing how both play in this game, for sure.”
There are eight wide receivers in the league this year who weigh more than 225 pounds (source: Stathead.com). Metcalf (229 pounds) and Brown (226 pounds) are two of them, and it is not just their size that makes them unique. In 2019, Metcalf ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the NFL scouting combines, the fastest time ever for a player who weighed at least 225. Brown was the fourth fastest wide receiver that year.
Both were selected in the second round. The Titans got Brown 51st overall, and Metcalf went to the Seahawks 13 picks later, and everyone else has found it difficult to measure up since.
Of the 24 wide receivers drafted that year, those two rank third and fourth in career receptions (Metcalf with 145, Brown with 126), first and third in receiving yards (Metcalf with 2,263 and Brown with 2,175) and first and second with touchdowns (Brown with 20 and Metcalf with 18).
“To be honest, I look at it like it’s another game on the schedule,” Brown said. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to play his best, and I’ll try to do the same.”
The two put up comparable numbers in their teams’ respective 2021 openers. Metcalf caught four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in Seattle’s victory over Indianapolis. Brown had four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown in Tennessee’s loss to Arizona.
Each insists that Sunday’s game is not the start of some of a professional rivalry.
“There ain’t too much smack talk going on,” Metcalf said. “It’s just a best-of-luck thing this week. … It’s always love between us, and [I] just wish him the best.”
The Titans already faced a sizable and talented wide receiver this season – and things did not go well. Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins, at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds had six receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday.
Now, they and their defense, which allowed six pass plays of 20 yards or more in Week 1, face an even more sizable challenge – literally – in Week 2.
“There is just a size and strength and speed element that (Metcalf) has,” Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said. “You got a big man that runs fast and is strong. I think if you get off balance, he has the ability to knock you by and use his strength and also some of his runs after the catch.
“There are a lot of problems. A lot of issues.”
The kind Tennessee’s opponents typically face in Brown.