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Steelers

Kevin Gorman Take 5: Hidden truths in Antonio Brown's comments

Kevin Gorman
| Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 9:54 p.m.
Antonio Brown catches a pass during the first day of Steelers minicamp.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Antonio Brown catches a pass during the first day of Steelers minicamp.

In defending his absence from the final eight sessions of voluntary OTAs, Antonio Brown on Tuesday attacked the media for putting pressure on the Steelers All-Pro wide receiver.

It was an interesting spin for a social media mastermind, as Brown has used everything from Facebook Live to Twitter to Instagram to build his brand and share his highlights from football to his personal life.

He has nobody to blame but himself for much of the attention he receives or the commotion he causes. But I'll play devil's advocate here and defend Brown on some of the topics he touched upon on the first day of mandatory minicamp.

1 Feeling pressure: Brown has a reputation as one of the Steelers' top performers under pressure, with a number of clutch catches with the game on the line.

So it was surprising to hear him say, "I'm constantly under pressure."

Perhaps he was talking about his personal life and the demands of being a superstar athlete or the father of five children. The former is a type of pressure to which very few can relate, the latter one that can be overwhelming for any young man.

For an athlete who can be coy at times, it was a rare glimpse into Brown showing a side that was raw and vulnerable.

2 Showing up: If anything, Brown appeared to be upset about how his comments on Le'Veon Bell skipping OTAs were taken.

Brown was asked directly about how he would advise Bell to handle contract negotiations , especially after Brown received a five-year, $72.71-million contract extension in February 2017.

"Well, the first rule of getting better is showing up," Brown said. "You can't make anything better without showing up. So, I think if you show up, I think everyone will understand where you want to be, that you want to be here not just this year but for years to come. Come out here and show up, show you want to get better and show guys you're serious."

It was actually great advice. The Steelers have a way of handling business, and threats of a holdout aren't taken kindly. But Brown believes his words were twisted, especially if you only read the headlines.

"You guys paint me a picture to talk about Le'Veon. I'm not involved with Le'Veon's business or his contract," Brown said. "You guys write about it and said AB says (Bell needs) to show up. I just said the first rule to getting better is to show up. I didn't say he gotta show up. He's got his own business."

My May 23 column credited Brown for showing the Steeler Way , but he hurt his own cause by skipping the rest of OTAs. Then again, they are voluntary. And Brown did something Tuesday that Bell didn't.

Brown showed up.

3 Not just Big Ben: Brown seemed to take exception to the suggestion that he skipped the final eight sessions of OTAs — which are nothing but glorified practices in helmets and shorts — because Ben Roethlisberger wasn't there to throw him passes.

"I'll play with any quarterback," Brown said. "No matter who is here, I play for the Steelers, not one guy."

Interesting enough, when Roethlisberger skipped OTA sessions, it was considered beneficial for backups Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs and third-round pick Mason Rudolph to get extra reps. Yet when Brown skipped, it was construed negatively.

That's a double standard.

"I'm hearing I don't want to (take) throws from backups. I've got a rookie quarterback here. Where's the respect?"

It was a ridiculous assertion, anyway. With the exception of his concussion against the Bengals in 2016 and his calf injury against the Patriots last season that caused him to miss games, Brown has been one of the Steelers' most reliable players.

Where's the respect?

4 Taking shots: Brown made some interesting comments on Instagram about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, which sounded like old grudges.

Brown said Arians called him a "special teams" player who couldn't remember the plays and noted Tomlin benched him for a game as a rookie in favor of Emmanuel Sanders.

"When I take time to reflect, I reflect on guys who made it hard on me for no reason," Brown said. "I don't hate those guys. I love those guys. But it's good as a player to get those things out of your mind."

It's called motivation.

And it shows how Brown uses every slight for his motivation, from his sixth-round selection in 2010 to comments made by Steelers coaches in his rookie season.

Now you know what makes him tick.

Who do you believe is to blame for the attention Antonio Brown receives?

5 Finding a focus: Brown repeated himself frequently, talking about "pressure" and "you guys," a reference directed at the media.

Overshadowed in Brown's eight-minute diatribe was this truth: "The only thing left for me to do in the game is to win a championship."

Brown is a six-time Pro Bowl pick and a four-time All-Pro selection who is arguably the NFL's best receiver — something he asked fans to debate on social media last week, by the way — but he hasn't accomplished the one thing that defines a Steelers star.

Brown hasn't won a Super Bowl.

That should be his focus.

Everything else can serve as his motivation.

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

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