Monday, November 09, 2015

Antonio Brown has caught on to leadership role

Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, 10:12 p.m.

Antonio Brown stiff-arms David Amerson in the second quarter of Sunday's win over the Raiders (Christopher Horner/Trib Total Media)
The cameras weren't on Antonio Brown. Not this time. So let's take a look at what was missed.
“We weren't making plays,” Darrius Heyward-Bey said of the passes he and fellow Steelers wide receivers took turns dropping most of Sunday afternoon.
“He came up to us (on the sideline) and said, ‘You all need to make plays for me.' ”
Of course he said that.
After all, it's all about AB, right?
“Not even close,” Heyward-Bey said. “Because let me tell you, when Martavis (Bryant) made that catch, the first guy who came up to him was Antonio. And he was screaming, ‘That's what I'm talking about.' ”
Talk doesn't win games in the NFL. Players do.
Brown won a big one for the Steelers, who still can be talked about as a possible playoff participant after a 38-35 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field.
Before you point out that somebody was throwing all of those passes to Brown, pay attention to how the Steelers' quarterbacks looked.
Before he was injured, Ben Roethlisberger didn't look like himself. Some throws were sharp. Too many were errant.
After he took over, Landry Jones did look like himself. Some completions seemed lucky. The big one, a 57-yarder to Brown, was the result of the run after the catch more than the throw to set up the catch.
Considering the scenario — Jones replaced an injured Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter — Brown probably was better Sunday than any Steelers wide receiver had been on a non-Super Sunday. Considering history, Brown's 17 catches for 284 yards are the best by a Steeler.
Still, I keep coming back to a conversation he had with Bryant, who emulated Kennywood's Thunderbolt: start off with a drop, but finish fast on a straight line.
Bryant should have caught at least a couple of Roethlisberger's sweetest spirals. If he had, the Steelers surely wouldn't have arrived at the fourth quarter locked into a 21-21 tie.
“We talk about everything,” Bryant said of sidelines chats with his “big brother” Brown.
“When one of us is down, we're all there for each other. But nobody more than AB.”
Thing was, Brown didn't say much to Bryant about the drops. Instead, he recalled his figurative dropping of the ball from a few weeks ago — his oft-replayed blasting of Jones in the Steelers' win over Arizona.
Brown's reputation took a hit in that one regrettable moment. Not just with Steelers fans, either.
Tight end Heath Miller, as respected as anybody in the Steelers' dressing room, pulled Brown aside during a practice and ordered him to stop sulking, not to mention to quit showing up an inexperienced quarterback.
“We've got a good team that leads by example,” Brown said Sunday.
He hadn't specifically mentioned the incidents with Jones or Miller, but he did when trying to prop up a dismayed Bryant.
“He handled his business,” Bryant said. “I saw him fight, keep his head up and trust that God had his back.
“And (on Sunday) he told me, ‘It ain't going to be perfect, but it's going to come to you. Be ready to be great.'”
Early in the fourth, Brown's 12th catch set up a Steelers' first down at the Oakland 14. On the next play, Bryant took a quick pass from Roethlisberger, then danced into the end zone to break that 21-21 tie.
The cameras caught all of that action Sunday, just like they caught Brown yelling at Jones on a Sunday he could have chosen to forget.
Leadership isn't about forgetting. Leadership is about learning from mistakes.
Brown said he has “absolutely” learned.
I needed proof. So I asked if the Steelers offense — without a Big Ben to chime or a Le'Veon Bell to ring — now belonged to Brown.
It obviously does. But let's listen to what the Steelers' best healthy player said.
“It is never about the individual,” Brown said. “It's a team game. The guys up front did a great job. DeAngelo (Williams) ran the ball well. Heath was blocking and catching passes. And all the receivers did a good job.”
That was the sound of leadership. That is what the Steelers will look for from the NFL's best wide receiver.
Brown has shown that he can catch anything. He has caught on to what makes a great player a great Steeler.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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