Antonio Brown is a lot of things, both as a player and a person, both good and bad. This past year, however, has seemed to bring about some change to the many things that he is, or has cast himself to be. He has been a different person over the course of the past 12 months, and it has been obvious even to us outside observers.
While I have no doubt that the underlying issues that have built up to the situation that we now find ourselves in are rooted in years of behavioral patterns and in his various relationships with teammates, the media, and himself, things have been coming to a head for the past year. As Ray Fittipaldo observed in a recent chat:
“He’s been different this year. Just different all around. Different on the practice field. Different in his interactions with the media. And I’m told different in his interactions among teammates”.
We can go at least all the way back to OTAs, during which he showed up for the first couple of days but then disappeared for the rest until he was required to return. Even some teammates questioned why he wasn’t there—Ben Roethlisberger also wasn’t, on a family vacation—and when he returned, he blamed the media and said that he had to take time off for his mental health, more or less.
He then had multiple run-ins with members of the media. While he was dealing with an injury in the summer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette felt he observed Brown limping at one point, and proceeded to Tweet it. Head Coach Mike Tomlin subsequently was asked about it and said there was no injury.
Brown ended up confronting Bouchette and called him a racist. It has been suggested that this is increasingly becoming representative of how he approaches situations. He recently called former teammate Ryan Clark an ‘Uncle Tom’ after he shared an admittedly very negative story about the receiver early in his career.
The demeanor with which he carries himself has been different the entire year. It’s not just the smiles and these surface-level traits. His interviews have grown increasingly terse and confrontational. Is this a product of his growing frustrations or change in personality, or did he just have a bad year?
Brown might have never been the ideal teammate, but I do think that the issues that already existed got heavily exacerbated and accelerated this year. What’s left to figure out is if there is a reset button where the two sides can return to a point in which their mutual relationship is workable, as it seems that it currently is not.