Antonio Brown can make a good case for himself already that he is the greatest wide receiver in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he is certainly not alone. Hines Ward at the moment has as good a case as any right now, with 1000 receptions and over 12000 receiving yards to his name, and a good deal more touchdowns than Brown has.
Ward has found himself again a presence in the Steelers’ facilities this year, as he was brought in as a coaching intern—or special assistant—to help coach up their 20-year-old rookie second-round draft pick, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
But it was his former teammate for two seasons, Brown, for whom Ward had some advice. “When the game matters”, he said, “they have to get you the ball, they’re going to get you the ball”. They know when you’re open without you throwing your hands up in the air.
“I remember early in my career, Bruce Arians was our receivers coach. I was running around with my hands in the air ‘I’m open, I’m open’”, Ward recalled. “BA said, ‘don’t do that, it’s like showing your quarterback doesn’t know. You played the quarterback position, you understand, so much is going on. If he missed you on a particular play, there’s no need to call him out’”.
He said that that brief coerced epiphany was all that he needed to understand. “Ever since that day Bruce told us that, I realized you put it on tape, I don’t have to wave my hands in the air that ‘you missed me, I’m wide open.’ It’s on tape”, he told Ed Bouchette.
He went on to agree with his former teammate, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and his former coach, Mike Tomlin, who both said that the sort of on-field and sideline antics from Brown could become an issue over time—and that this was not the first ‘tantrum’ from Brown.
“You don’t want the situation to become [like what happened with Terrell Owens], a great player, but it was more about if he didn’t get catches there were going to be problems.”, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter.
“You don’t want that kind of distraction. I don’t think A.B. is at that level like T.O. You can definitely see over his career, if you were such a Hall of Famer why, in your prime, were teams getting rid of you? You were a distraction”.
While he reiterated that he doesn’t think that Brown is at that level, he did add that “t’s a bad reflection on others because there are other guys out there who want the football just as bad as A.B.”
“I understand, in the heat of battle in the heat of competition, you want to help your team win. They were winning; I thought they had the game in control the whole game. It took away from the team’s accomplishment, what he did on the sideline”.
More globally, the majority of Brown’s teammates had already brushed off the incident as soon as it happened, but he still ended up apologizing multiple times over the course of the week, including during a lengthy locker room interview at the end of the week.