Antonio Brown addresses his week of distractions with Steelers
As the assembled media formed a semicircle in front of Antonio Brown’s locker Thursday, Vince Williams set a calming mood by cueing up “The Storm is Over Now” by gospel singer Kirk Franklin.
Brown then faced the music, spending the next 10 minutes discussing a different storm – the one he created in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Calling himself “misunderstood,” Brown discussed the chain of events he set in motion that day – from his sideline confrontation with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, to his hasty exit from the locker room, to his controversial Twitter response to a former team employee, to his absence from work Monday. He said it all stemmed from the frustration of a loss that dropped the Steelers’ record to 0-1-1.
Combative at times, Brown challenged reporters’ questions and said the media tries to portray him in a manner that is counter to what his teammates believe.
“You guys write what you think is going to get hits,” Brown said. “Everyone in that locker room knows what I stand for, know what I’m about. I’m committed to this program, this organization. I go to work every day, go about my business. I don’t take it for granted. My business is winning here. I come here to win and if we’re not winning, you’re damn right I’m (ticked) off.”
After Brown did not report Monday morning for scheduled film study and positional meetings, coach Mike Tomlin met with his star wide receiver on Tuesday and announced Wednesday that Brown would be disciplined.
Drew Rosenhaus, Brown’s agent, said he informed the Steelers of Brown’s absence. But Brown said he told Tomlin about his personal matter.
“Yeah, I let him know,” Brown said. “You can’t just not show up. What do you guys think, you just don’t show up? We have a job and my job is to let everyone know what is going on with me and why I’m not here.”
Brown said his discipline won’t involve sitting out any plays Monday night at Tampa Bay. He bristled when asked if he would be on the field for the first snap.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Brown said. “You don’t want to see me in my jersey?”
As for that controversial tweet, Brown said it was in response to a “personal shot” from former team employee Ryan Scarpino. After Scarpino wrote that Brown owed his career and earnings to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Brown responded “trade me let’s find out.”
“I obviously don’t want to be traded,” Brown said. “I’m grateful to put on my uniform, grateful to be a part of this organization. I don’t take that for granted. Obviously it was a stupid remark online. I just have to stay away from online with the distractions and letting people get me out of my character.”
Brown downplayed his sideline confrontation with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner in the second half against Kansas City. Fitchner scouted Brown when the wide receiver was at Central Michigan, and Brown said the two have a strong bond.
“I never yelled at Randy. We just talked,” he said. “We have a great relationship. Randy is the reason I’m here. He recruited me. If you see me in in his face talking, we have that type of respect for each other where I can talk like that. We know each other on that type of level. It’s not no disrespect. … I’m misunderstood and you guys wouldn’t have a clue.”
Brown also detailed why he left the locker room so hastily after the game. He exited as the media was permitted to enter. Brown typically is one of the last players in the locker room after games.
“I’m (ticked) off we lost the game,” he said. “If you want to talk, let’s talk. I’m right here. I’m not hiding from none of you. I don’t hide from no one.”
Reminded that reporters did want to talk to him Sunday, Brown contradicted himself, saying, “I was available. I left early. I’m (ticked) off we lost.”
Brown, however, still views himself as a team leader, mentioning his track record – Monday’s absence notwithstanding.
“I come to work every day,” he said. “You guys can make a statement that I’m a diva but you ask these guys, I put my heart on the line every day.”
Outside linebacker Bud Dupree said the perception of Brown is different on the outside of the locker room than inside it, and the players don’t view the latest sideshow as a distraction.
“It’s your job to (overplay) things, and it’s our job to do our job,” he said. “They write stories, that’s what people pay attention to. But as football players, we see certain things and it may not be as big a deal to us as it may to people on the outside. But they blew it up, so it forces the media people to do this. You’ve got to go over there and get people’s answers because (fans) want answers.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.