Why? Because, instead of talking about the shellacking Keith Butler’s unit received at the hands of Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Friends, the main focus on Monday was on Brown and his in-game and post-game antics....again.
As always with Brown, these antics had to do with his apparent dissatisfaction with not getting the football thrown his way nearly enough.
At one point in the game, Brown was seen arguing with someone on the Steelers’ sideline—presumably new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Given the score and the way Fichtner’s crew was functioning—Pittsburgh’s offense produced 475 yards and five touchdowns on the day—Brown may have picked the wrong coordinator to have a verbal confrontation with.
But Brown didn’t pick the wrong coordinator, and that’s the problem.
After the game, journalists were quick to point out how fast Brown was when exiting the locker room to avoid their questions; this was probably why those same reporters had no problem commenting on Brown’s body language throughout the course of the game—as his teammates greeted and celebrated with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger following his three-yard touchdown run to pull Pittsburgh to within five points late in the fourth quarter, Brown reportedly sulked to the sideline and wasn’t very supportive.
And what piece of Steelers’ drama would be complete without a touch of social media turmoil thrown in for good measure? On Monday, a former Steelers employee, Ryan Scarpino, tweeted: “AB needs to thank his lucky stars, because he was drafted by a team that had Big Ben. And Ben got AB paid. You know darn well he wouldn’t put up those numbers for other teams.”
Brown’s response: “Trade me let’s find out.”
Most people in the know are pretty adamant when they talk of Brown’s selfish nature, and that he puts his own statistics above the team’s success. And as much as I’ve defended Brown in the past for things like arriving to training camp in a helicopter, it’s hard to come up with a defense when people accuse him of being selfish.
The incident in Week 4 of 2017, when Brown threw a Gatorade bucket on the sidelines out of frustration, drew the headlines afterwards — people are still talking about that flare-up in a game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, almost a year later. However, I don’t pay much attention to sideline outbursts in the middle of football games—including the latest one involving Brown this past Sunday.
What drew my attention came hours after the Ravens game, when Brown took to social media to post a video of him and his young child. During the video, Brown says, “Tell them to throw Daddy the football.”
In the heat of the moment during a football game is one thing — Roethlisberger didn’t see a wide-open Brown on a play where No. 84 would have scored easily. But to hold onto that resentment hours after the game is over — and a 17-point win, to boot — is the act of a selfish football player...just another diva receiver.
Look, I get the mentality of a receiver. People criticize and mock the great ones for wanting the football all the time and caring too much about their own stats, but those same people will use a receiver’s career stats against him when determining things like his Hall of Fame status.
I’ll bet it’s quite frustrating battling trash-talking cornerbacks for sixty minutes. You work your tail off, you think you’re getting open, and then you look over and see another guy receiving the focus and the stats.
Brown has said on more than one occasion that winning a championship is the most important thing to him. If that’s true, then he, more than anyone, should realize how valuable he is simply by drawing so much focus from opposing defenses.
Brown is on an unprecedented run of excellence that has him on par with Jerry Rice at a similar stage of his Hall of Fame career. In 2017, Brown not only surpassed 100 receptions for the fifth-straight season, he led the NFL in receiving yards despite missing the final 10 quarters with a calf injury.
Coming into 2018, Brown had to know he would continue to draw double- and triple-teams, something that was illustrated quite clearly during Roethlisberger’s first of three interceptions in the 21-21 tie with the Browns in Week 1.
On Sunday, second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 13 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, marking the third-straight regular season game in which he surpassed 100 yards receiving. Meanwhile, tight end Jesse James caught five passes for an astounding 138 yards and a score.
Both receivers were often wide-open, illustrating the high price opposing defenses may soon have to pay for continuing to focus so much attention on Brown.
This can only help the passing game and the offense as a whole. The last thing Brown should want is for his quarterback to feel pressured into getting him his targets, while ignoring the more wide-open targets that have proven to be trustworthy and productive.
Yet, through his continued actions, you get the feeling Brown would rather his quarterback feel compelled to get him his targets, even if it puts the offense at risk.
The crazy thing is, Brown has been targeted 33 times through two games, and his 18 catches put him on pace for a career-best 144.
Finally, when his career is over and the dust settles, Antonio Brown will be remembered with fondness. But if he doesn’t start proving to the football world that winning a championship really is his top priority, he’ll be remembered more for his Terrell Owens-like actions than his Jerry Rice-like greatness.
In other words, just another diva receiver.