The concept of the ‘diva wide receiver’ has become a cliché over the years, but it’s not without reason that it exists. The prescription for its very existence lies in the nature of the wide receiver position itself. The entirety of a wide receiver’s success at his primary job is utterly reliant upon another person not only doing his job but choosing among up to four other potential targets also attempting to do their jobs. There is a one in five chance on every play, statistically, that you will actually be the target of an aimed pass.
So when you seemingly spend an entire game doing excellent work beating defenders in one-on-one matchups to get yourself open and available to your quarterback only to see him choose to go in other directions or to make poor throws when he does look your way, that can naturally be frustrating.
You can probably figure out where this is going by now. Of course it’s about Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has had his share of ‘diva’ moments in the early goings of the season when he has struggled to get the opportunities to put up his usual receiving numbers.
While he has over 200 yards and three touchdowns over the course of the past two games, Brown was only averaging 68 yards per game over the first four weeks, even going as low as 50 yards, but that was despite the fact that he had 63 targets in that span.
Working with new wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, the veteran position coach hasn’t been surprised by anything he’s seen so far from Brown, on the field or off. He even admitted that even he himself, as a wide receiver for Western Kentucky in the mid- to late-70s, “was always open”.
“They’ve always been that way”, he said of wide receivers and their frustrations about not getting the ball more often. “I could have five guys around me and felt that I was open”, he told his hosts on 93.7 FM during a recent interview.
Drake, who has also coached the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Larry Fitzgerald, said that it’s been like that everywhere he’s worked. “I’ve never had a great one that didn’t struggle with patience. We all struggle with patience. I want my cake and pie and be able to eat them both at the same time”, he said.
“At the same time, I understand that you have to be patient in certain situations”, Drake added in talking about Brown. “He understands that and, again, he’s getting better and better with that”.
He is getting better with that, but he has also been getting better targets and thus putting up better numbers. Will his patience continue to be in check if the offense should struggle and he doesn’t see the ball? Right now he is coming off of a game-winning touchdown. What happens the next time there’s adversity?