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Gorman: Brown deal a model for Bell

Kevin Gorman
| Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, 10:49 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, left, smiles as he is introduced by Steelers President Art Rooney II for a news conference about Brown's contract extension at the NFL football team's headquarters, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, left, smiles as he is introduced by Steelers President Art Rooney II for a news conference about Brown's contract extension at the NFL football team's headquarters, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown smiles as he answers questions during a news conference about his contract extension at the NFL football team's headquarters, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown smiles as he answers questions during a news conference about his contract extension at the NFL football team's headquarters, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Antonio Brown is now the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver, and the Steelers star arrived at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Tuesday dressed to play the part.

Brown wore a three-piece suit embroidered with horseshoes and roses, symbolic on a day designed to celebrate his five-year, $72.71 million contract extension.

Neither luck nor love had as much to do with Brown's deal as did the Rooneys keeping their word. And Brown keeping his.

If ever there were a walking, talking contradiction on the Steelers, it's Brown.

For all of the nonsense associated with his attention-drawing antics — from touchdown twerks to locker-room livestream videos — Brown is regarded as one of the league's hardest-working and most productive players.

When it came to earning a contract extension, Brown was a model citizen who set the perfect example for Le'Veon Bell to follow.

Seriously.

“I just give everybody inspiration and motivation,” said Brown, 29, a 2010 sixth-round pick. “If you work hard and do the right things, you'll get rewarded. The results of working hard and doing the right things are being in this position.”

Brown had far outperformed the five-year, $42 million extension he signed in 2012, setting an NFL record with the most receptions (481) in a four-year span.

When Brown wanted to renegotiate in April 2015, he and agent Drew Rosenhaus threatened a holdout. Brown even skipped voluntary conditioning to prove his point.

The Steelers stuck to their policy of not renewing contracts of players other than quarterbacks until one year remained on the deal. They asked Brown to be patient, and rewarded his production with raises by restructuring his salary the past two years.

Last summer, team president Art Rooney II promised Brown an extension.

True to his word, Rooney delivered.

“The Rooneys,” Brown said, “did a great job accommodating me.”

Rooney talked about taking care of team priorities. Brown was the top item on the Steelers' offseason agenda, even if he wasn't their first order of business.

Before signing Brown on Monday, the Steelers placed the exclusive franchise tag on Bell to prevent teams from negotiating with the running back as a free agent.

Now that the Minnesota Vikings have released Adrian Peterson, the Steelers could have the NFL's highest-paid receiver and running back. Bell can't be happy about losing leverage, even if he's projected to make about $12 million next season — unless the Steelers reach a multiyear contract with him before the July 15 deadline.

But Bell would be best served by following Brown's lead on negotiating with the Steelers: speak softly and carry big statistics.

Brown's signing is as much about investing in Ben Roethlisberger's return at quarterback as it is keeping its star receiver happy. The Steelers doubled down on their commitment to an offensive identity, even if it scored 30 points in only six of 19 games.

Where Bell is averaging the most snaps, touches and yards from scrimmage per game in the NFL since 2013, he never has started and finished the same season and has twice been suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Brown, by contrast, missed only one regular-season game in the past four seasons, when the Steelers rested starters in the '16 finale against the Cleveland Browns.

The Steelers were smart to spend first on Brown, who is the more reliable player at this point. Bell would be wise to watch and learn from Brown on how to make long-term deals with the Rooneys and Steelers.

“I think he knows how special it is to be here,” Brown said. “He knows every year we're going to have a chance (to win a Super Bowl). That's all you can ask for as a player.”

That and being the NFL's highest-paid player at your position, if it suits you.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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