The Pittsburgh Steelers had their nifty winning streak snapped at the hands of the Denver Broncos in week 12, and after their 24-17 loss the team now has to turn the page quickly before they host the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field in Week 13.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how Antonio Brown, you know the man media call a wide receiver diva, took the high road when he was asked about Ben Roethlisberger’s critical comments made on his weekly radio show.
Let’s get to the news:
By: Chris Admaski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
In the 72 hours or so after their first loss since September, it appeared as if Team Turmoil might be creeping its way back as the unofficial identity of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Instead of luring it back in, though, Antonio Brown on Friday went the over-the-top philosophical route to stomp out any lingering narratives of a rift developing between either his quarterback or his understudy running mate at receiver.
“In the world we live in today, I think controversy is celebrated a lot,” Brown said when questioned about Ben Roethlisberger’s criticisms of him and JuJu Smith-Schuster’s better production than him. “People try to put people against each other, bring people down. But we all need each other. There’s power in unity and people coming together, and not in people fighting and bringing each other down.”
But, Antonio, your quarterback publicly criticized your route-running on the deciding play of last Sunday’s loss at Denver, openly expressed he wanted to throw to Smith-Schuster on every play and refused to anoint you the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver – a title you’ve held for a half a decade. In your first public comments since Roethlisberger said all that, how do you respond?
“It’s not personal the way you guys (in the media) make it,” Brown said. “You guys make big stories. That’s my guy. I love him. I got his back no matter what’s said. Everything he said is gonna encourage us to get better.”
Moments later, Brown referred to Roethlisberger as “My guy,” and insisted that any negative words the veteran quarterback might have about his teammates are done to “inspire” and “encourage” the rest of the team
After all, Brown points out, Roethlisberger is the only player in the Steelers’ locker room who’s won a Super Bowl ring with the organization.
“We have a lot of good history together – and we will continue to make history,” said Brown, who has set records for catches and receiving yards while compiling the vast majority of his production off passes from Roethlisberger. “We have that relationship where we challenge each other, we encourage each other. That’s the situation you wanna have with your quarterback.”
But don’t the personal criticisms hurt?
“I got big shoulders. I can take it,” Brown said. “Constructive criticism (is) only for you to get better. It’s only made to challenge, only made to make you better. And that’s my guy.”
Another one of Brown’s “guys” is Smith-Schuster, the second-year phenom who has more receptions (77-71) and receiving yards (1,055-874) than Brown this season despite having just turned 22 last week.
Whereas in the past Brown, at times, has seemed reluctant to praise a talented receiver teammate, there appears to be a genuine mutual respect between he and Smith-Schuster.
A day after Smith-Schuster attributed his success to the double-teams Brown draws, Brown tacitly agreed, saying: “When (Smith-Schuster) doesn’t get the second DB and is getting one-on-one coverage, he takes it personal. He’s going to win. And he’s going to make the defense pay. If you want to take away AB, then JuJu gonna make a play.”
But Brown also returned some love, calling Smith-Schuster “a stud.”
“He wants to be great; he’s just inspired by the game, and he wants to be the best – and that’s what makes him so special,” Brown said. “It means something to him; you can tell by the way he works and the way he goes about his business. He loves the game.”
By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Ben Roethlisberger said James Washington should have caught the ball he dropped, and Antonio Brown should have “come flat” running his route on the Steelers’ last offensive play in the loss at Denver. thus denying Broncos cornerback Chris Harris a chance to cut in front of him.
Roethlisberger didn’t personally insult Washington or Brown. He didn’t say their mothers wear army boots.
Roethlisberger’s analysis was also absolutely correct, though it doesn’t take into account throwing an interception to a defensive lineman, something Brown’s incorrect route-running had zero to do with. Roethlisberger should have put heat on himself for that.
So, what’s the big deal?
Roethlisberger has been vilified near and far (mostly far) for throwing teammates under the bus. His leadership has been questioned.
But the Steelers have prospered through a plethora of chaos for the best part of this decade. Much of that arrived with the aforementioned Mr. Brown and with Le’Veon Bell, the now-absent half of the Toxic Twins partnership.
Consider last year: Ryan Shazier got paralyzed. James Harrison turned traitor and went to New England. Alejandro Villanueva made his teammates go heel by putting his hand over his heart (on camera, of course) while they stood in the tunnel like dopes before the game at Chicago. Brown was a constant barrage of noise. Bell skipped training camp (although he does that all the time).
Some of those problems were organic, most not. But the Steelers still went 13-3. True, they lost their first playoff game. (They do that all the time.)
Perhaps the Steelers are immune to distraction. They certainly get enough practice dealing with it.
As for Roethlisberger’s leadership, he’s right: He has been a Steeler 15 years, and that allows to him to choose his bedside manner.
Perhaps Roethlisberger has tried leading privately, and it hasn’t worked with certain individuals. That wouldn’t be hard to believe. The Steelers locker room doesn’t lack leaders. It lacks followers. So Roethlisberger went public.
Who cares what Washington thinks? He’s only a rookie, has been a disappointment to date and can’t do much worse.
As for Brown, does anybody really believe he will do or think anything different because of anything anybody says, good or bad? That includes Roethlisberger, other teammates, the coaches, everybody. (Except Pepsi and Pizza Hut.) Brown has a self-taught degree in narcissism. At any rate, Brown spoke Friday and wasn’t upset. In fact, he spoke glowingly of Roethlisberger. (Good babyface move.)
So, what’s the big deal?
Leadership, like team chemistry, is mostly a myth. Those qualities are assigned after the fact when teams succeed by way of romanticizing the situation.
A good team is never said to succeed despite no leadership and poor team chemistry. Vice-versa for bad teams. Winning and losing determine.
Indulge, please, my oft-cited example: The NHL’s leadership award is named after Mark Messier. Hockey’s greatest captain ever, it’s perceived. Messier led Edmonton to a Stanley Cup in 1990 after Wayne Gretzky had left and, in ‘94, the New York Rangers to their first Cup in 54 years.
But Messier’s teams didn’t make the playoffs in any of his last seven seasons.
Did Messier forget how to lead? Or did his teams merely win when they were good, and lose when they were bad? (Yes.)
Talent and execution determine more than anything.
By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Maurkice and Mike Pouncey are indistinguishable to strangers, so the identical twin NFL centers like to have fun with football fans who mistake one brother for the other.
“Every single time,” Maurkice said, reminiscing about how Dolphins fans used to mistake him for Mike when visiting his brother in Miami. “Every store I’m in a store or at the gas station, they’d ask, ‘How’s (Ryan) Tannehill doing?’ I lie to them. I’m like, ‘He’s doing great. He’ll come back stronger than ever.’ Then I’d go sit in the car and laugh. He does the same thing when he’s here: ‘Ben is a great guy.’ ”
The Pouncey brothers will be easily identifiable Sunday night at Heinz Field, even though both will be wearing No. 53. Maurkice will be playing for the Steelers (7-2-1) and Mike for the Los Angeles Chargers (8-3).
The Watt brothers also will be on opposite sides, as T.J. wears No. 90 and plays outside linebacker for the Steelers while Derek wears No. 34 and plays fullback for the Chargers. They played against each other occasionally in practice as teammates at Wisconsin but never before in a game.
Texans star J.J. Watt set some ground rules for his younger brothers: No cut blocks.
“Just don’t go at his knees. Otherwise, everything’s fair,” J.J. Watt told reporters in Houston. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. I hope there’s at least one play where they have to — Derek has to block T.J. straight up, and we can settle it once and for all.”
The idea of tackling Derek brought a smile to T.J.’s face.
“It would be awesome,” T.J. Watt said. “I feel like I can get him down relatively easy. I’ve done it many times in the backyard, so it would be a familiar feeling for him.”
The sibling rivalry was a source of laughter inside the Steelers locker room this week, but the brothers count the blessings playing in the NFL provides their families. You need only to look around the room to understand it, especially after the Steelers drafted safety Terrell Edmunds and signed his brother, running back Trey Edmunds.
Watt and Pouncey talk with their brothers on a daily basis, whether it’s through text message or on FaceTime, then end up talking to each other about what they heard. Sometimes, that serves as a source of envy.
“They’re on the same team so I’ll be like, ‘Did you hear they’re not practicing? What the heck. Why are we practicing?’ ” T.J. Watt said. “Just little stuff. I think it’s cool that Derek and Mike have a relationship and me and Maurkice have a relationship, too.”
But brothers are still brothers, meaning they take advantage of every opportunity to have fun at each other’s expense. For example, here is an exchange this week between Maurkice Pouncey and the media:
Q: So, Maurkice isn’t the outspoken one and Mike the quiet one?
A: “I just look better, honestly.”
Q: Do you play alike?
A: “I play better.”
Q: If you snuck into their locker room at halftime would anyone notice?
A: “I’d take that team to the next level, baby. They would definitely notice.”
The first thing you notice about the Pouncey brothers, aside from their ever-present smiles, is their tattoos. They got their first one together, at age 14: Mind on a Million. Their mother told them not to get any below the forearms, but they didn’t heed her warning. Both are covered, although Mike has more.
“We came home in our sophomore year of college and both of us had tattoos down our forearm,” Maurkice said. “She looked at us and starts crying and was like, ‘This better work out.’ ”
It has worked out wonderfully for the Pouncey brothers. Both starred at Florida, where Mike moved from defensive tackle to guard and played alongside Maurkice. When Maurkice left early and was drafted No. 18 overall by the Steelers in 2010, Mike moved to center. He was drafted No. 15 overall the next year by the Dolphins.
Both became Pro Bowl centers. Where Maurkice endured ankle and knee injuries early in his career, Mike overcame a career-threatening hip injury. He was released by the Dolphins last March and signed with the Chargers. Now, both snap the ball to gold-jacket guys in Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.
“He’s doing really well. I’m really happy for him,” Maurkice said of Mike. “He’s having an opportunity to have a really great team offensively and defensively. He talks a little more trash now.”