Kevin Gorman: Steelers star Antonio Brown wants to win, but business isn't booming
Antonio Brown is accountable for his actions and took full responsibility for causing distractions for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even if he mostly blamed it on the media for magnifying his life under a microscope.
The All-Pro wide receiver spoke publicly Thursday at Steelers headquarters for the first time since his “trade me” tweet, explaining his emotions are tied directly to being in the business of winning.
And business is anything but booming.
So, as Brown tells it, the heated sideline exchanges between Brown and assistant coaches Randy Fichtner and Darryl Drake in the 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday was merely a misunderstanding.
Simply, the Steelers were losing, and Brown wants to win.
“We haven’t won a game yet. For me, as a Steeler, that’s unacceptable,” Brown said. “I’m not on the sideline begging for the ball or making statements like you guys make. I’m (angry). We’re losing. We (stink).”
If you were expecting a public apology, you’ve got the wrong guy.
Brown did offer a mea culpa for forcing his teammates to answer questions about his tweet, which he called “a stupid remark online.” But he was otherwise defiant, a trait one teammate called “that dog in him” that carried Brown from sixth-round draft pick to NFL superstardom.
“You guys make assumptions about my emotions. You don’t know me at all,” Brown said. “Everyone in this locker room knows what I stand for, knows what I’m about.”
That’s where Brown is 100 percent right. We don’t know him at all. We follow @ab or @ab84 on social media and see his magnetic smile and Gucci gear and helicopter arrival. We see the charity work and catchphrases and commercials. We see the Stickum hands and toe-tap catches and touchdown celebrations.
Sometimes, seeing is believing — except when it isn’t.
“When you see me on the sidelines talking to Randy Fichtner, you ask me what I’m saying: ‘I’m ready to win,’ ” Brown said of the Steelers offensive coordinator, his former position coach. “But to you guys, it’s always spun as ‘he’s selfish’ because I do got big stats. …
“I never yelled at Randy. We just talked. We’ve got a great relationship. Randy’s the reason I’m here. He recruited me, so if you see me in his face talking that’s just because we have that type of respect for each other where I can talk to him like that. We know each other on that type of level. I’m talking about winning. Obviously, I’m misunderstood. ”
Fichtner called Brown a competitor, explaining their exchange was “probably more just about wanting to help the team win and his contribution. I don’t think it’s anything more than that.”
If you believe this is only about Brown being frustrated he has 18 catches on 33 targets, you haven’t been following along. He’s a self-made social-media megastar who has complained about public pressure. He left training camp while dealing with a leg injury and has since lashed out at reporters in person and on social media.
Brown missed a meeting Monday to deal with personal issues, and maybe there’s more going on than meets the eye. What do I know? I don’t pretend to know anything about Brown in his personal life. But it wasn’t a good look, not after the sideline behavior and leaving the locker room before interviews and the “trade me” tweet.
The Steelers know what to expect from Brown, and that’s for him to play like one of the NFL’s best players. If you believe Brown is obsessed with his statistics, you’re probably right. But Brown also is obsessed with winning, wants to be the reason the Steelers win and doesn’t deal well with losing.
“If his ceiling is at the top for effort, it’s going to be the exact same spot each and every week,” Steelers receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “The one thing about football, if you’re not the quarterback you can’t throw the ball to yourself. You can’t look at stats and say, ‘Oh, he came out and showed the world.’ Every week he does. He’s the best receiver in the league. He’s just going to play ball, man. ”
That’s what distinguishes Brown. The Steelers are all passionate about winning, but Brown is on a different level because his performance often helps determine whether the Steelers will win.
That they are 0-1-1 going into the “Monday Night Football” game at Tampa Bay explains his frustrations, even if it doesn’t necessarily excuse them. That the Steelers desperately need a victory explains why they didn’t suspend him, not that I necessarily blame them.
Just don’t expect Brown to act any different.
“Everybody has a story. Everybody comes into it different. But that kid, Antonio, you can’t say enough about him,” Heyward-Bey said. “He’s a Hall of Fame player. He works his butt off each and every day, and I love having him as a teammate.”
That’s the dog in Antonio Brown. If the Steelers want to win as much as he does, they will throw him a bone.
Anything else is bad for business.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.