The chorus of “The Storm Is Over” by gospel singer Kirk Franklin played as Antonio Brown approached his locker on Thursday, an intentionally apt choice by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker/DJ Vince Williams to address the latest bit of drama surrounding his superstar teammate.
Brown heard the song and laughed. Then the All-Pro wide receiver stepped in front of his stall and turned to face the cameras. The music stopped. The smile faded. In its place? A mix of frustration, defiance and — he insists — remorse.
Yes, he’s upset the Steelers are winless through two games. Yes, he probably shouldn’t have responded to criticism on social media from a former team employee by suggesting the team trade him if it wants to find out how productive he can be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
No, he doesn’t actually want to get out of Pittsburgh. No, he doesn’t have an issue with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. And as for his demeanor during a 42-37 loss to Kansas City last Sunday? Sorry, but he’s never going to apologize for letting his emotions bubble over when things aren’t going well.
“We haven’t won a game yet,” Brown said. “For me, as a Steeler, that’s unacceptable. I’m not on the sideline begging for the ball, or making statements like you guys make. I’m pissed off. We’re losing. We suck.”
Pittsburgh (0-1-1) is off to its worst start in five years heading into Monday night’s visit to Tampa Bay. That’s the problem, Brown insisted. His visible anger — he was caught slouching off the field following a late touchdown drive by Roethlisberger against the Chiefs and shouting at Fichtner on the sideline — is a direct result of the team’s record. And that’s all.
“Our business is winning,” Brown said. “We’re not winning. And when we don’t win, I’m pissed off because I take it serious. A lot of time goes into this. A lot of hard work and effort.”
Brown finished with nine receptions for 67 yards and is tied for the team lead with 18 catches through two games. He’s on pace for another statistically remarkable season. Yet the six-time Pro Bowler stressed he is far less concerned about his numbers than helping the Steelers get it together.
“I’m in the spotlight so you guys going to always put me under the microscope, but I’m a (passionate) individual,” Brown said. “I can’t fake the way I feel. I can’t hide the way I feel. If it wasn’t important to me, I’d just say it don’t matter. But I’m not that type of guy who’s just around here cashing checks and don’t care. This means something to me.”
An approach his teammates and coaches understand, which is why Fichtner wasn’t bothered when cameras caught Brown shouting in Fichtner’s direction on the sideline late in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs.
“I’ve known AB a long time and to be honest, I didn’t think about it like (people would think we were arguing) until later,” Fichtner said. “But I want him to be passionate and I want his communication.”
Brown, however, isn’t always in the mood to share his thoughts. When Pittsburgh’s late rally fell short, Brown skipped out of the postgame locker room before the media entered. He then missed mandatory meetings on Monday for what he described as personal reasons. He said he informed coach Mike Tomlin that he wouldn’t be into work, and the two had what Tomlin called a lengthy meeting on Tuesday to discuss the matter.
While Brown didn’t make it to the team facility on Monday, he did find time to tweet “trade me lets find out” after a former Steelers employee suggested Brown should be thankful he has the chance to play with Roethlisberger. No one took Brown’s post seriously, particularly not Brown.
Still, he understands taking to social media to vent might not be the best course of action going forward.
“Obviously it was a stupid remark online (by me),” Brown said. “I’ve just got to stay away from online with the distractions and letting people getting me out of my character.”
The Steelers disciplined Brown for undisclosed reasons, but Brown indicated he will jog onto the field with the rest of the starters in Tampa Bay. He’ll also try to stop adding to a steady stream of off-the-field issues that have consistently popped up for the two-time defending AFC North champions.
“I can’t respond to people that’s saying crazy stuff,” Brown said. “I’ve got to do a more important job, to be focused on what’s important and what’s important now is for us to win.”
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