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With torch passed, Brown now setting tone for Steelers receivers

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown makes a catch during practice Thursday, May 29, 2014, on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Sixth sense

Most single-season receiving yards by a sixth-round draft pick:

Player Team Season Yards

Antonio Brown Steelers 2013 1,499

Pierre Garcon Redskins 2013 1,346

Terance Mathis Falcons 1994 1,342

Michael Jackson Ravens 1996 1,201

Terance Mathis Falcons 1998 1,136

Antonio Brown Steelers 2011 1,108

Source: STATS, LLC

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 10:10 p.m.

Just as rookie receivers are inclined to do, Martavis Bryant failed to run a precise route during the Steelers' offseason practice Wednesday.

Coach Mike Tomlin immediately ran over to offer advice: Watch No. 84, and he'll show you the right way.

Antonio Brown is the owner of that number, as well as quite a few impressive numbers from a 2013 season that stamped him as one of the NFL's premier receivers.

Brown also is enjoying taking ownership of a much-altered receivers group —“I'm excited about our new assets,” he said — as the Steelers move further away from the days of Ben Roethlisberger throwing passes to Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace.

“You've got to set the tone and be an example,” Brown said. “I'm the guy, the marquee guy who coach (Tomlin) likes to show to guys and tell guys, ‘That's who you've got to watch.'

“I pride myself and hold myself to that standard and try to set the right example.”

If there is one constant to the Steelers' pre-training camp practices that last through June 19, it's that Brown will be one of the last — if not the last — players off the field.

For him, the standard is his standard.

Even after a 90-minute practice, he'll hang around to catch a few more passes, run a few more drills or sit on the field with a few young receivers and discuss tricks of the trade. Or the very assets, as he would say, that have made the sixth-round draft pick one of the Steelers' biggest draft-day steals.

They have fielded receivers such as Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Hines Ward over the years, yet Brown's 93.7 receiving yards per game last season was the highest in team history.

His 1,499 yards receiving last season also were the most in NFL history for a sixth-round draft pick — no other player is within 150 yards. His 110 catches were the third most for a sixth-round pick.

He was so productive that, even with the addition of Bryant, Dri Archer, Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and LeGarrette Blount, and the ever-expanding role of second-year running back Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers offense still is expected to flow through Roethlisberger and Brown.

“I have to, for sure, set the tempo,” Brown said. “I want to be the guy that sets the pace and the standard.”

Brown's offseason was filled with the usual routine of working out in a warm climate, but he also made a significant career change.

Less than two years after signing his $42.5 million contract, Brown cut ties with agent Drew Rosenhaus and signed with hip-hop mogul Jay Z's Roc Nation sports management firm. Brown is one of Jay Z's first NFL clients, joining with Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, receivers Victor Cruz of the New York Giants and Hakeem Nicks of the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith.

Jay Z (his real name is Shawn Carter) also represents the NBA's Kevin Durant and MLB's Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia.

Brown said of the move, “He's doing a great job of helping his team and making sure we've got a team and that his team wins. He's got a good team of people to make sure you're winning, not only off the field but on the field and life in general.”

Or exactly what Brown is trying to do in Pittsburgh with a team that hasn't won since 2011 and, based on myriad offseason moves, is trying hard to find a different mix of winners.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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