Brown, Gordon Time

Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon both won their respective team's MVP awards Thursday, and both will match record-breaking seasons Sunday.

The NFL will announce its Pro Bowlers on Friday night, and if they go with the tried and true the voters will go with A.J. Green and Andre Johnson as starting wide receivers.

But if the voters have any nerve, they'll go with Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon.

Those two receivers will be the featured MVPs Sunday at Heinz Field where Brown's Steelers will host Gordon's Cleveland Browns.

Brown was named Steelers MVP in a players' vote Thursday after setting a franchise record for receiving yards this season.

Gordon was named Browns Player of the Year in a writers' vote Thursday after setting his team's record for the same.

No other AFC receiver meant more to his team this season than either of these two. Brown was responsible for 27.6 percent of the Steelers' offense, while Gordon was responsible for an NFL-high 30.5 percent of the Browns' offense.

Vincent Jackson of the NFC's Tampa Bay Bucs was the only NFC receiver to have accounted for a larger percentage of his team's offense (28.7 percent) than Brown.

Brown and Gordon aren't just valuable to their teams; they have big numbers all the way around.

Brown is third in the NFL in receptions with 101, and is within striking distance of Hines Ward's franchise record of 112 catches in 2002.

Brown, of course, broke in with the Steelers in 2010 and spent two seasons with Ward, and even lockered next to him.

"I had the opportunity to see him last week," Brown said. "He was encouraging me and he let me know how close I am and how many more catches I needed. He always reminds me to have a goal in this game. He encourages me to always be better. This is what it is all about."

Brown smiled and added, "I think deep down he probably doesn't want me to break it, but he is always encouraging me to break it. We had a lot of great experiences together and I am sure he is excited for me."

Brown broke Yancey Thigpen's franchise yardage record last Sunday and is third in the NFL with 1,412 receiving yards. And for a player who's caught so many short, quick passes, Brown's 14.0 average per catch is impressive.

Many teammates say Brown's toughness after the catch is a product of an intense work ethic that's said to rival that of former linebacker James Harrison.

Brown appreciated the remark. "James Harrison was a guy that wore a weighted vest to practice," he said. "He excelled in the weight room, squatting 400-500 pounds. He took care of his body and had an amazing commitment to playing the game."

Gordon is just starting to find out what it takes to survive in the NFL. After all, he sure seemed to be riding a path of self-destruction that started with two marijuana violations while at Baylor.

The second one landed Gordon an indefinite suspension in 2011, a year after he had become Robert Griffin III's deep threat opposite Kendall Wright. In 2010, Gordon averaged 17 yards per catch.

But after his suspension 2011, Gordon transferred to Utah, sat out the season, and then just entered the 2012 supplemental draft. The 6-3, 225-pounder ran a 4.52 40 at his workout and the Browns drafted him in the second round.

Gordon caught 50 passes for 805 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie last year, but the league suspended him for two games because he failed another drug test. Trade rumors swirled around Gordon early this season, but he responded with one of the greatest second halves to an NFL season any receiver has ever had.

Starting in Week 11, Gordon had 125 receiving yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, then 237 against the Steelers, 261 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and 151 against the New England Patriots.

Gordon not only became the first NFL receiver with back-to-back 200-yard games, he had the best three-game output ever (649) and the best four-game output ever (774).

Gordon leads the NFL with 1,564 receiving yards, a 19.6 average per catch, and 120 yards per game, all on 80 catches.

"He's got everything you need as a receiver," said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. "Speed, he got it. If you're looking for a guy to go across the middle and not worry about being hit, he got that. Just savvy. Real smooth. A finesse runner, meaning he looks effortless when it comes to running but he's always pulling away from guys."

Gordon told the Pittsburgh media Tuesday that Baltimore's Jimmy Smith was the best cornerback he's faced this season. That didn't faze Taylor.

"I don't see nothing bad with him," Taylor said. "Even on the field he doesn't say much. He just handles his business, something like Calvin Johnson. Plays football. You can tell he's kind of like a team player. He handles his business. Get on the field, get off the field, goes home."

But will Cleveland continue to be his home? Have trade rumors gone away in the afterglow of his torrid stretch of play?

"I heard a few things like that from Coach (Rob) Chudzinski just reassuring me to keep focused, to keep my head right, to not buy into all of that and stay tuned into the media, to just focus on what we have to do here," said Gordon. "He gave me a little bit of reassurance."

Brown and Gordon should be assured of carrying this rivalry into the future, after taking the first snap together in the next Pro Bowl.

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