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Justin Brown still being called 'traitor' because of his decision to transfer from Penn State

Fans won't let go of certain things. For ex-Penn State and Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Brown, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his decision to change schools amid scandal carries with it the burden of a fan base that won't forget.

Jason Miller

Before the selection of (angels sing) Dan McCullers in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the most talked about Steelers pick of that round the last few years was Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Brown.

Talked about in the sense of "hey, do you remember him?" more than anything else.

People outside Pittsburgh automatically assume there's some kind of inherent link between the city and Penn State University. It's not exactly as tight as, say, the Green Bay Packers to the University of Wisconsin (although the distance between the two is similar), but the University of Pittsburgh has far more local ties than Penn State does. Still, there are plenty in the area who see an affiliation between the two.

And in that, people still remember Brown not so much for his impressive rise from rookie cut to practice squad to third receiver on the Steelers a year later, but for his defection from Penn State to Oklahoma in wake of the Jerry Sandusky crimes and subsequent scandal that rocked the university and its alumni.

We wrote after Brown's selection:

Did he quit on his team? Would he otherwise have stayed there had the issue come up, but wasn't particularly happy and just took the chance he was given?

Maybe that affected his stock, maybe not. But it's an interesting question, and one that will absolutely come up, particularly from a media group that's close enough to Happy Valley where he'll be asked to re-visit his decision now.

If nothing else, I hope he's prepared for it.

The purpose of that column was to link the two subjects - Brown's return to the state of Pennsylvania a year after everything happened, and to re-introduce the topic as Brown became the first Penn State player on that last Joe Paterno team to join the Steelers.

Some things should never be forgotten. Brown's decision to transfer - granted by the NCAA without needing the typical one year of ineligibility due to the sanctions that would be imposed and eventually lifted - isn't one of those things. According to Tribune Review reporter Chris Adamski, Brown says he still hears it, even at Heinz Field.

Or maybe especially at Heinz Field.

What's wrong with the Steelers' short-yarage offense?

"Oh man. I'm still getting yelled at at Steelers games," Brown told Adamski. "But you know, that's just fans being fans. I understand it. They're passionate. They're just being fans. I don't really take it personal. It's just (the nature of) Twitter or Facebook."

What underscores that decision is the fact Brown would eventually earn his degree from Penn State, not Oklahoma, and, according to Adamski, considers himself a Penn State alumnus (he should, because he is). He's here now, the subject of a different kind of controversy; that of wresting the slot-receiver position away from veteran Lance Moore, probably the least expected move of the Steelers' season to date.

The Steelers host the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football and it seems, based on media reports, rookie split end Martavis Bryant sits right on the edge of dressing for his first game of the season. Significant struggles by the Steelers' offense both inside and outside the red zone are contributing to the perception of moves coming regarding personnel, and Bryant is the most obvious choice. It would seem either Brown, Moore or Darrius Heyward-Bey are in line for deactivation in favor of the rookie Bryant, but Brown seems the safest of that group.

That, unlike the catcalls he's apparently getting from Penn State "fans," wasn't at all expected two years ago, or even two months ago. The road he has taken is particularly rare and he's making the most of his opportunities. The "traitor" tag may be something fans won't let go of, but Brown is where he is based on the work he put in at both schools and, more importantly, during his time with the Steelers.