Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has missed just three games in the last five seasons, but the most superstitious fans may believe he’s headed for trouble in 2018. As the new face of Madden NFL 19, the six-time Pro Bowler will have to fend off the infamous Madden curse. Brown will be on the cover of the new game when it’s officially released on Friday, Aug. 10.
It’s something he’s not worried.
“I don’t really buy into all the theories that people make up,” Brown told SB Nation. “For me, being on the cover is just a blessing.”
The “curse” dates back two decades with players who earn a spot on the Madden cover prone to injuries or disappointing seasons immediately following the release of the video game.
That didn’t slow down Tom Brady last year. The quarterback thrived in 2017 after he was featured on the cover of Madden NFL 18, and even taunted the curse by smashing a mirror and walking under a ladder. He finished the season as NFL MVP and led the New England Patriots to Super Bowl 52, where they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Will Brown be as fortunate in 2018?
The case for: Brown is doomed
Yes, the Steelers receiver has been on the field for 77 of a possible 80 regular season games over the last five years, but that doesn’t mean Brown hasn’t picked up bumps and bruises along the way. A serious concussion in January 2016 kept him out of a playoff game, and he suffered a torn calf in 2017.
He’s avoided a serious injury, but he just turned 30 and that wear-and-tear could finally add up. It probably doesn’t help that Brown has been missing practice time by sitting out most of the Steelers’ OTAs.
But it’s not just Brown’s health that should be under the microscope. What happens if Ben Roethlisberger goes down?
The Pittsburgh quarterback takes a lot of punishment every year and rarely plays a full 16-game season. In just the last three years, he’s suffered a knee sprain, a foot sprain, a concussion, a shoulder sprain and a meniscus tear.
In the five games Brown played without Roethlisberger in 2015 and 2016, the receiver averaged 4.8 receptions and 68.2 yards per game with no touchdowns. That’s way below the 7.7 receptions and 104 yards he’s averaged over the last four years.
If Roethlisberger misses any time, don’t expect another 1,500-yard season from Brown.
The case for: Brown will be fine
Brown is consistently healthy and on the field, he’s always tough to defend, and he’s had at least 100 receptions, 1,200 yards, and eight touchdowns in each of the last five seasons.
There’s zero reason to believe he’s any more injury prone in 2018 than he was in any other season, or that he’s primed for a bad season.
There’s nothing wrong with a receiver turning 30 either. That may be the time where running backs slow down, but age 29-31 has historically been the most productive years of a receivers’ careers.
Roethlisberger’s health has been a little more dicey, but he didn’t even miss a practice due to injury in 2017. And if he does miss some time, it won’t be Michael Vick stepping in to the starting lineup like the time Roethlisberger was sidelined in 2015.
Brown’s production plummeted with Vick at quarterback, yet he had 124 yards in Landry Jones’s start against the Chiefs in 2015 and 106 yards when Jones started a game against the Patriots in 2016.
An injury to Roethlisberger may cut into Brown’s numbers some, but he isn’t going to magically turn into a receiver who can’t crack 800 receiving yards on the year.
Players get hurt all the time in football and nobody is completely safe, but it’s a sound bet that Brown will be just fine in 2018.
Verdict: Brown’s curseability is low
On a scale from uncurseable to totally screwed, I’d put Brown’s spot on Madden NFL 19 at a dash of spilled salt. If you’re the type who would then throw that salt over your left shoulder, maybe the Madden curse has you concerned about the Steelers wide receiver.
But there haven’t been many victims of the curse as of late, so don’t worry: Brown will probably be OK.