Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is very rarely a distraction on the field in his opponents’ eyes. Rather, he is the focal point of their attention, the player on the field about which they most have to concern themselves, because nobody can hurt them more than he can.
Off the field—or on the sideline—it can be a different story, and the ninth-year wide receiver is aware of it. Following a busy extended weekend in which he blew up on the sidelines, left the locker room ahead of media availability, responded to a former employee on Twitter, and then failed to report to a Monday meeting, he met with the media yesterday to address the past several days.
A former team employee whose name you surely know by now Tweeted that Brown should be grateful to have been given the opportunity to play with Ben Roethlisberger because he was the one who has made his prolific numbers possible. “Trade me lets find out”, he Tweeted in response. In his absence, his teammates instead had to ask questions about whether or not he wanted to be on the Steelers.
But he was here yesterday to answer for himself, and he admitted that he made a mistake. “I just got to stay away from online with the distractions and letting people get me out of my character”, he said regarding his social media habits.
Later on in an extended media session that verged on 10 minutes, he was asked directly if he believes he has been a distraction. “Obviously it’s a distraction when you’re writing guys on Twitter and my teammates gotta answer about it”, he said.
“You guys making headlines like I want to be traded. I’m nothing but grateful for this organization that took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity to live out my dream”, Brown went on. “So any time it’s looked upon with my teammates like I’m a guy who don’t appreciate being around my guys and not trying to win, I’m this guy you guys in the media make me out to be, it is a distraction, because our business is winning. I’m playing football. That’s what I’m here to do”.
The Steelers have become seasoned veterans when it comes to dealing what those on the outside choose to deem distractions, especially over the past year. They still managed to get to a 13-3 record despite having a tumultuous season in the locker room—at least according to what reporters presumed, though the players almost always argued differently.
Whether or not something is a distraction is a different discussion than whether or not it hurts the team’s chances of winning games. What Brown did, he knows for himself, was a distraction. Like he said, it made his teammates become accountable for him. But it’s not going to cost them a game.