You may have heard in the wake of Sunday’s game against the Bengals that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was not entirely happy with the fact that he only caught four passes during the game for 49 yards. You may have heard this because he said it himself.
And he also said that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tells him to “shut up” whenever he begins to complain about the fact that he believes he is open on nearly every play and that the veteran quarterback should be throwing him the ball more. Roethlisberger reminds him not to “get too involved in the game emotionally”.
You might recall that a few years back now in 2013, during the second game of the season, Brown was said to be upset at the sidelines because he was not getting enough targets, which he felt was producing poorer results on the field, in a game that the team lost.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley, however, is not concerned about such attitudes, and, in fact, views it as par for the course for players at Brown’s talent level. And, really, when compared to many other similarly skilled wide receivers over the years, his public appeals for more targets is certainly tame.
But of course, naturally, this all trickled back to Haley when the coordinators get cornered on Thursday in what the team’s website aptly refers to as the coordinators’ corner, where Haley and defensive coordinator Keith Butler field questions from reporters for the week.
Haley was asked how he works to balance Brown’s need for his number of targets during a game—he was targeted 11 times on Roethlisberger’s 37 pass attempts, identical to the numbers from the team’s season opener—with an appropriately effective distribution of targets across the rest of the offense.
Haley understated himself, saying, “I’ve learned a lot about that coaching receivers for eight, nine years in the league, and the good ones usually want the ball every time and they’re always open. AB’s highly, highly competitive, but there’s gonna be some games when the coverage, and some of the things we see being played against him, where we’ve got to use him to our advantage in other areas”.
Haley has seen every type of personality as a wide receivers coach or offensive coordinator or head coach from Keyshawn Johnson to Larry Fitzgerald over the course of his career, so I would certainly be willing to believe that he knows how to massage an ego or two, and Brown’s is certainly far from disproportionate to what he brings to the table on the offensive side of the ball.
“Those guys are going to have to make plays in certain situations”, Haley said, referring to the rest of the Steelers’ groups of pass catchers, not only at wide receiver, but also at tight end and running back, “because it’s not going to change with AB. He’s going to get a lot of attention, and the more plays other guys make—I just keep telling him, ‘you’ve gotta be rooting for those guys’”.
“Really, our whole group”, he said, “to be as good as we want to be, we need an entire group that is putting the group first, and he does a very good job of that”. For as much as might be made about Brown’s ‘attitude’ in the rare times that it bubbles to the surface, I don’t think there should be any question that he is a team player, and that his ultimate goal is a Lombardi.