It almost seems as though Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is inching closer and closer to getting himself ejected from a game. Last season, the seventh-year man drew two personal foul penalties in a game. Though both were not qualifying personal fouls, the league passed a rule this past offseason that results in a player getting ejected if he receives two certain varieties of personal fouls, and that drew a lot of discussion at the time about Brown.
Yesterday, during the Steelers’ joint practices with the Lions, during which the officials were in attendance, Brown reeled in a pass in the end zone in impressive fashion, but the end zone official ruled that the All-Pro was out of bounds.
Twitter accounts of the incident that followed indicate that Brown proceeded to argue “vociferously” with the official as he argued for a penalty on his end zone catch in a joint practice in training camp that could hardly mean anything less.
But that is exactly the sort of incident that defines the type of person, and the type of player that Brown is, and how he has turned himself from a sixth-round draft pick out of Central Michigan into the best wide receiver in the game, and one of the greatest players at any position currently playing, well on his way to a future in the Hall of Fame.
Since he first entered the league, there is nobody that I am aware of who has outworked Antonio Brown, either among his teammates or among his opponents. He has the sort of drive in him that propels athletes to greatness in their chosen fields, and that sometimes produces explosive incidents such as this one, in having an official tell him that he would have been ejected for his conduct had this been a real game.
A few years ago, in the second game of the 2013 season, Brown was reportedly upset with offensive coordinator Todd Haley because he was not getting enough touches as the team was continuing to lose games. He proceeded to catch nine passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns the following week.
These are just the sort of manifestations of that competitiveness that keeps Brown at his best. While he is certainly not dispossessed of physical gifts, he is not the tallest, nor fastest, nor strongest player in his field. But as nobody can outwork him or outcompete against him, he will be on top as long as his abilities remain with him.
These minor manifestations of frustration—which we well know far pale in comparison to what we have seen from even less talented wide receivers in the recent past—are merely a side-effect of his quest to strive for excellence, for perfection, at every turn. Whether it is in a one-on-one drill against a teammate in training camp or in the Super Bowl, every rep is the same in his mind—and worth arguing about.