Let Steelers receiver Antonio Brown get your playoffs off to a good start

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Be sure to have Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown in your lineup on Thursday night.

<p> Be sure to have Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown in your lineup on Thursday night.</p>

I told you Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown would be a top-12 receiver in Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals. I was wrong. He was a top-14 receiver, missing top-12 status by 1.17 points. So thanks, Pierre Garcon, Demaryius Thomas, Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd — the models of consistency in 2011 — for getting in the way and making me wrong.

So I will give it another shot with Brown in Week 14, against a top-ranked pass defense like the Cleveland Browns. But how tough is it really — better yet, how tough will it be against a team’s No. 2 playing opposite Mike Wallace?

The Browns have seen just 28 pass attempts per game, giving up a league-best 173.3 yards per game with 11 TDs and six interceptions. But have they faced a passing offense like the Steelers yet? No.

Here are the quarterbacks the Browns have faced and the fantasy points allowed. SPOILER ALERT: None of these QBs are near the level of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, who had fantasy games of 26.78 and 25.6 against Cleveland last season and is 11th best in the NFL this season, averaging 19.3 per game this season.

Week 1: Cincinnati (Bruce Gradkowski & Andy Dalton) — 9.68 & 9.24
Week 2: Indianapolis (Kerry Collins) — 10.54
Week 3: Miami (Chad Henne) — 16.8
Week 4: Tennessee (Matt Hasselbeck) — 25.3
Week 5: Oakland (Jason Campbell & Kyle Boller) — 2.68 & 4.9
Week 7: Seattle (Charlie Whitehurst) — 1.48
Week 8: San Francisco (Alex Smith) —15.28
Week 9: Houston (Matt Schaub) — 8.76
Week 10: St. Louis (Sam Bradford) — 10.5
Week 11: Jacksonville (Blaine Gabbert) — 9.4
Week 12: Cincinnati (Andy Dalton) — 18.1
Week 13: Baltimore (Joe Flacco) — 5.22

Think Big Ben can do a little better than Andy Dalton’s 18.1 from two weeks ago or Chad Henne’s 16.8 or Alex Smith’s 15.28? So do I.

Let’s assume Joe Haden keeps Wallace in check and Roethlisberger doesn’t go to TE Heath Miller enough to make him a significant threat to steal touches — he averages 4.6 targets per game. Then in steps Brown.

Brown, as a No. 2 receiver who has seen targets shared with Emmanuel Sanders, Hines Ward and even Jerricho Cotchery, is the 27th-best receiver in PPR formats and is ranked 18th in targets with 90 through 13 weeks. He has caught 50 of the 90 for 774 yards and one TD. Brown has been Roethlisberger’s top target in five of 12 games this season — Weeks 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9.

Brown continues to be a solid PPR play and is ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards per catch (15.5) of those with at least 20 catches, and if he could just get in the end zone he would be one of the steals of the season in fantasy.

One thing to be scared of is the Browns’ 31st-ranked rush defense that allows 151.2 yards per game and the second-most attempts per game (34.1).

This is the reason the Browns pass defense has looked so good; teams can just run up and down on them and have the game done in three hours flat. If this was the Steelers ground and pound of old then I would be scared off away from their No. 2 receiver, but this is balanced team. The Steelers are 18th in the league in rushing at 111.8 yards per game and 14th in attempts per game (26.9). They are 18th in pass attempts per game (34.2) and ninth in yards per game (256.1).

If Haden keeps Wallace locked down and the Steelers keep up their passing ways, Brown could be in for a big night and a good start to your 2011 fantasy playoffs.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

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