A distraction is defined as “a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else” or “extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.” Does Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown fall into either of those definitions? Suddenly there are suggestions that this might be the case.
If you missed Dejan Kovacevic’s article from yesterday, I highly recommend you read it over at his site DKonPittsburghSports.com. As only he can do, Kovacevic paints a troubled picture of what is going on within the Steelers’ offensive huddle and on the sidelines. But I’m hearing it may go deeper.
Despite the fact that Brown leads the league in receptions with 37, is second in targets with 56 and is tied for first in receiving touchdowns with five, he doesn’t appear to be happy. In fact, it sounds like he thinks he should have the ball thrown his way even more and Ben Roethlisberger isn’t obliging him. Sometimes, Roethlisberger even tells Brown to “shut up” in the huddle.
What Big Ben has figured out is that constantly forcing the ball to Brown can have bad results. Half of his interceptions last season were throws to Brown when he had more than the usual amount of defensive attention. Roethlisberger has discovered, especially with Le’Veon Bell back, is that there isn’t a need to force it to AB anymore. As most top wide receivers would be, Brown is none too happy about it.
But that isn’t the only thing he isn’t thrilled about lately.
Since the opening week of the season, Brown has been told his shoes were in violation of NFL rules. This past Sunday he was told if he didn’t change them he would be ejected. I’ll be the first to say the NFL uniform police are way over the top but it is what it is. If my boss tells me what I can wear and what I can’t, I better follow those rules or I get fined, suspended or terminated. As we enter week six, Brown continues to push the boundaries of what his boss deems proper. My question is why?
That makes me wonder if Brown is wearing these shoes for the tributes that are on them or for himself because right now I’m really not sure but I have a strong feeling it’s the latter. Either way, the fact that Brown can’t just comply each week has to be troubling for his teammates and coaches because it has become a distraction no matter how ridiculous the NFL’s rules are.
But then there’s the dancing. I fully support Antonio Brown’s right to dance after scoring a touchdown as long it doesn’t taunt the opposing team or their fans which to this point it has not. The game of football is supposed to be ‘fun.’ Scoring touchdowns is supposed to ‘fun.’ Dancing is typically ‘fun.’ I find this to be much less of a distraction than the shoes and especially less than the complaining about balls coming his way. Brown proved he’s more than able to comply with the rules on Sunday when he chose to hand the ball to a fan rather than dance.
Was that by design or was it a decision based strictly on the fact he was tired of being fined?
The Rooney Family is well-known for how it treats their players. Dating back to the Chief, Art Rooney, through Dan Rooney and to Art Rooney II, they are all known to build relationships with players in their environments and not just in the front office. Therefore, when a player is called to the “principal’s office,” the relationship already has a foundation.
Whether Brown has been or will be called in because of his actions is pure speculation as of this writing but what I can tell you is that there is plenty of talk that this all has to do with his pending new contract. He’s worried his numbers are being held in check to keep his price down but I’ll leave that to the beat writers who are around the facility everyday. What I know for certain is that Brown has been more demonstrative on the field and the sidelines this season than I think I’ve ever seen him.
He’s been nose to nose with both Roethlisberger and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley and all of this is happening while the Steelers are winning. I like Brown. I think he’s one of the hardest working players in the league and he’s incredibly personable but I’m of the school where the most important statistic is the number in the win column and right now I’m not sure that is the priority for Brown.
I get it; football is a short career. Players want to earn as much money as they possibly can in the small window that is an NFL life-span and Brown has absolutely earned the contract he will get next season. If he were at the bottom of all of these statistical categories I might understand better but he’s not. This team is winning right now and that should be the focus shouldn’t it?
Photo courtesy espncharlotte.com