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Passing game highlighted 2015 season

Posted Jan 26, 2016

The Steelers offense put up some impressive numbers during the 2015 season.

The Steelers’ passing game in 2015 was highlighted by Ben Roethlisberger doing what no other quarterback was able to do this season and by Antonio Brown doing what no player had done previously in NFL history.

Roethlisberger missed four games and parts of three others but still managed to lead the league in passing yards per game (328.2) and 350-yard passing games (six). His per-game average was the third-best in a season in NFL history.

Brown tied for the NFL lead with 136 catches and finished second with 1,834 receiving yards and became the first player in NFL history with consecutive 125-catch campaigns (he caught 129 balls in 2014). Brown also upped his receptions total over the last three seasons to 375, the most over a three-year span in NFL annals.

The passing game was a driving force behind the Steelers setting a franchise record for consecutive games with at least 30 points (six) and tying an NFL mark for consecutive games with 450 total net yards (four).

And it wasn’t just Brown on the receiving end.

Second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant missed five games due to suspension (four) and injury (one) but still surpassed his rookie totals by catching 50 passes for 765 yards. Bryant’s 17.3 average per catch over the last two seasons is tied for the third best in the NFL and his 14 touchdown receptions are the fourth-most for a Steelers player in his first two seasons (Louis Lipps, 21, 1984-85; Mike Wallace, 16, 2009-10; Buddy Dial, 15, 1959-60).

Wide receiver Markus Wheaton exploded for nine catches and 201 receiving yards on Nov. 29 at Seattle along the way to registering 44 receptions for career-high totals of 749 yards and five receiving TDs (Wheaton had two of those in his first two seasons, both in 2014). Wheaton’s career-high 17.0 average per catch ranked seventh in the NFL in 2015 and was bolstered by a 72-yard touchdown grab on Oct. 12 at San Diego (from quarterback Michael Vick) and a 69-yard score at Seattle (tossed by Roethlisberger).

Tight end Heath Miller’s 60 receptions for 535 yards allowed him to climb to second on the Steelers’ all-time receptions list (592, behind Hines Ward’s 1,000) and fourth in Steelers’ history in receiving yards (6.569) and receiving touchdowns (45).

And running backs Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams combined for 64 catches out of the backfield (24 by Bell in six games and 40 by Williams).

Even quarterback Landry Jones got into the highlight-generating act by compiling a passer rating of 149.3 after relieving Vick on Oct. 18 against Arizona. Jones went 8-for-12 for 168 yards and two touchdowns and finished with the second-best passer rating in NFL history for a player making his NFL debut (minimum 10 attempts), behind only Marcus Mariota’s 158.3 in 2015.

The Steelers didn’t have Brown available in their 23-16 playoff loss on Jan. 17 at Denver (concussion). But Bryant delivered 154 yards on nine catches, the third-highest receiving yards total in Steelers’ postseason history (Lynn Swann, 161, Jan. 18, 1976; John Stallworth, 156, Dec. 30, 1978) while setting a Steelers’ postseason record for yards from scrimmage in a game (194). And rookie Sammie Coates stepped in and contributed two catches for 61 yards (Coates had one reception for 11 yards in the regular season) and also drew a 12-yard penalty for pass interference.

That helped Roethlisberger amass a career-high 339 postseason passing yards against the Broncos, the third-highest figure in Steelers’ playoff history (Tommy Maddox, 367, Jan. 5, 2003; Neil O’Donnell, 349, Jan. 15, 1995).

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