Quotes obtained by media present at the Steelers' last OTAs session of this week have Brown smiling "That’s always a good question," he said, quoted by Mike Prisuta, in regards to Brown's preference. "You definitely gotta ask Mike Tomlin."
And you can sense a level of tiresome familiarity when the comment was made that perhaps the team is looking for special teams contributions from some of the rookies, most notably, third-round speed demon Dri Archer.
"They say that every year, man, and I’m back there," Brown said. "We’ll see."
To Brown's credit, he's not saying he won't return punts, although Prisuta brought up a good point; Brown fair caught 23 punts last year, only nine less than he returned, and there were several returnable punts he let roll. The reason he's back there is because he's one of the best in the league at it; he had a career high 12.8 yards per return last year, including a touchdown against Cincinnati (a play better known for linebacker Terence Garvin's fine-inducing hit on Bengals punter Kevin Huber). Another, the Steelers haven't found anyone else to do it - or at least no one else they've given enough opportunity to do it.
Punt returner is a tough position to field in today's NFL. Brown's objection is having to take extra hits that may lead to injury, but it's not like that's different for any other player. Finding a player who can contribute on returns but does not serve a critical need on a per-down basis can be difficult.
It would seem Archer will be given ample opportunity to compete for the job this year, and Prisuta wrote Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Lance Moore, Kashif Moore and Danny Coale fielded punts over the week as well.