OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Marquise Brown went from producing one of the best starts for a rookie wide receiver to disappearing just as quickly.
What happened to the promising Baltimore Ravens playmaker?
Defenses committed to taking away the deep passes, and as a result, they're taking Brown out of the game. Cornerbacks are routinely playing 8 yards off the line of scrimmage, and Brown has been a non-factor when forced to run underneath routes.
Brown knows exactly what he needs to do in order to make an impact again.
"We just have to find ways to make [cornerbacks] come back up," Brown said. "I have to get yards after the catch and turn short plays into big plays."
Brown, the No. 25 overall selection in this year's draft, burst into the NFL with 233 yards receiving, the third-most by a player in the first two weeks since the 1970 merger. Over half of that production came on two deep passes.
Teams thought they could jam Brown because he's 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, but Brown made them pay. In the season opener, Brown scored on an 83-yard touchdown at the Miami Dolphins. A week later, he sealed the win against the Arizona Cardinals with a 41-yard catch late in the fourth quarter.
Defenses quickly adjusted and respected Brown's electric speed. Over the last two games (both losses), Brown has been limited to six catches for 71 yards because he hasn't been allowed to stretch the field. During that time, he ran six routes of 30 yards or longer, got targeted four times and didn't record a catch.
"There are some teams that say, 'You’re not throwing this over our head and you guys got to work your way down the field,'" offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "Clearly, if they’re all the way back there [Roman throws his hand up high], somehow we got to throw it to them here [Roman moves hand lower]. But he was open quite a bit last week."
Brown got open twice in the red zone against the Browns with no success. Quarterback Lamar Jackson bounced a throw in front of Brown, and then threw a pass too low in the end zone, where Brown had gotten behind a linebacker.
It wasn't all Jackson's fault. Brown had a pass bounce off his hands on a slant route, which looked like the one he scored on earlier this season in Miami.
"He’s a great receiver," Jackson said. "He had [four] catches, or whatever, during the game, but we’re going to definitely get him a lot more."
Brown has to do more when he gets the ball. In the past two games, five of his six receptions have come on throws of under 15 yards. Brown has produced a total of 13 yards after the catch, an average of 2.6 yards.
“If they’re playing off, we have to attack them and make plays with your feet," Brown said. "If they come up, then we’ll go over their heads. We just have to execute that."
Last week, the Browns lined up closer than 8 yards to Brown only three times. On Sunday, Brown could have more opportunities at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers have given up three touchdowns on passes that have traveled at least 25 yards in the air. Only the Oakland Raiders (six) and Washington Redskins (four) have allowed more.
"I think [in] an effective passing game, you have to be able to, if it’s a deep to short read, you have to be able to go deep and then get down to your outlet throws," Roman said. "If they’re giving you opportunities over the top, one-on-one situations, then we have to make the most of those, and we will."