While the big story of the week is going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers defense being roasted off the field following their roasting on it, let’s talk for a brief moment about where wide receiver Antonio Brown is right now. The ninth-year veteran is not off to the sort of start to the season that he had clearly hoped, and has been visibly frustrated.
Nevermind the off-field distraction that he has been dealing with stemming from an article about his personal dramas as exposed via social media, and his subsequent verbal attack. Or when he accused Ed Bouchette of being a racist after the veteran reporter Tweeted that he was seen limping off the practice field several weeks ago.
His limping was obvious to all on the sideline today, and so was his frustration. He is dealing with physical and emotional injuries right now and is not himself. Through two games, he has 160 receiving yards, which is third-most on the team behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jesse James, both of whom went for over 100 yards today.
Against the Chiefs, Brown caught his usual nine passes, but only got 67 yards out of them and was no the recipient of any of Ben Roethlisberger’s three touchdown passes on the day, after catching the only one from the quarterback a week ago on a 22-yard back shoulder throw.
Roethlisberger has missed him a few times, to be sure, but the two have often appeared not to be on the same page, which was evident on a couple of plays in the second half in which the receiver was open in the end zone. One was a miss, but the other seemed to result from Roethlisberger expecting him to work to his left.
The frustrations are manifesting themselves on the sidelines. He had a verbal confrontation with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake also exchanged words with him. I’m sure there were other incidents that we might hear about later in the week.
This is not necessarily out of character for Brown, whose sideline temper is known. The great Heath Miller once said in his final season that he has had to tell the receiver to “shut the hell up” every so often.
When things are not going his way, he gets frustrated, and he takes it out, even on watercoolers. Things are not going his way so far this year, either physically or mentally. Dogged by a lower body injury and spending some time on the sideline getting treatment, it’s clear he’s not where he wants to be.
Can the Steelers even afford not to have him out there, though? Smith-Schuster had gone for over 100 yards in his first two games, but there is no obvious number three right now.