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PITTSBURGH – Steelers receiver Antonio Brown spoke Wednesday for the first time since a dramatic weekend filled with a 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a sideline blowup, a missed day of work and a controversial tweet, and man, did he fill up reporters’ notebooks.
Brown opened the sometimes-contentious, nine-minute presser by reiterating that he missed work on Monday due to personal reasons, and that he alerted head coach Mike Tomlin about his absence.
“Obviously the coach knew where I was at,” said Brown, who repeatedly declined to go into details of that talk. “It’s personal between the team and me and coach.”
Brown wouldn’t reveal the details of the discipline Tomlin handed him for missing work Monday — which was reportedly a fine — but he said he understood, although he expects to start the Steelers’ next game, their Monday night showdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I never could go against the program or what these guys think is right for me,” he said.
Yet, when asked if he needed to apologize to his teammates, Brown shook his head.
“Apologize for what? I’ve got a personal issue,” Brown said. “When you guys have personal issues at home and stuff happens, do you apologize for it? That’s life. If I did something, I’m fully responsible for my actions.”
Brown, who was caught by CBS cameras having a somewhat-emotional discussion with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner during the Chiefs loss, was also asked what his thoughts were during the course of the game, where the Chiefs jumped out to a 21-0 lead and held on for the win that dropped the Steelers to 0-1-1 on the season.
“We’re losing the game, we’re getting beat by 40, we haven’t won a game yet,” Brown began. “For me, as a Steeler, that’s unsettling. I’m not on sideline begging for the ball or making statements like you guys make. I’m pissed off, we’re losing, we suck.”
But Brown, who caught nine passes for 67 yards and was targeted 17 times, was not done, as he dismissed any notion that he was complaining about getting the ball.
“Man, you guys make assumptions about my emotions, just guys don’t know me at all,” Brown continued. “You guys just write what you think will get hits. Everybody here knows what I’m about. I’m committed to this organization, I’m fully here. I’m here to work every day and I come here to win. If we ain’t winning, you damn right I’m pissed off.”
When told by a reporter that he wasn’t in the locker room Sunday to address the matter — Brown dipped out before reporters were allowed in — he remained defiant.
“Yeah, you guys write stories about everything — I’m pissed off, we lost the game,” Brown said. “If you guys want to talk to me, let’s talk. I’m right here. I’m not hiding from none of you. I’m not hiding from no one. I’m from Liberty City.”
Brown, however, did not link his anger at the team’s performance to his tweet on Monday, where he wrote “trade me let’s find out” after a former team publicist, Ryan Scarpino, wrote that Brown got paid because Ben Roethlisberger made him look good.
In fact, in the most reconciliatory moment of the entire nine-minute interview, Brown indicated some remorse for tweeting it.
“He took a personal shot at me, but obviously I’m still grateful to put on my uniform and be a part of this organization,” Brown said. “Obviously, it was a stupid remark. I’ve just got to stay away online from the distractions and letting people get me out of character.”
What’s more, Brown said he understood it was a distraction.
“Obviously it’s a distraction when you’re writing guys on Twitter and my teammates have to answer about it,” said Brown, a fifth-round pick in 2010. “I’m grateful for this organization that took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity live out my dream. So anytime it looks as I’m a guy who doesn’t appreciate them or isn’t trying to win or I’m the guy in the media you guys make out to be, it is a distraction.”
Brown, however, admitted that he thought it was “sad” that Scarpino — who worked for the Steelers from 2010 to 2017 — felt that way, since every player’s success depends on the other 10 he shares the field with at any given moment.
“It’s a team game, my success does depend on Ben, the o-line and the other receivers doing their jobs,” Brown said. “But as a competitor man, I take this s— serious. It’s not a game to me and cashing checks. My assignments and my performance, that means a lot to me.”
In the same vein, Brown continued by insisting that his sideline blowup at Fichtner, the new offensive coordinator, had nothing to do with targets (he currently is first in the NFL with 33) but was more about the team’s overall performance.
“I’m upset that we’re not winning, that we’re getting our asses kicked,” Brown said. “I can’t throw the ball to myself, I don’t count stats. My stats will take care of themselves. We’ve got a long way to play, we’ve only played two games.”
When asked if he missed Todd Haley — the Steelers’ long-time offensive coordinator who was dismissed this offseason — Brown just shook his head.
“You want me to give you another story,” Brown said. “Yeah, I like Randy, I have a great relationship with Randy, Randy’s the reason I’m here — he recruited me. So when you see me out here talking, it’s because we have that kind of respect for each other that I can talk to him like that. We know each other on that type of level, it’s no disrespect.”
Brown was also asked if he considers himself a leader by example, which he agrees with, despite the drama of the past week, which also included Brown apologizing to an ESPN reporter for a threatening tweet after an unflattering profile.
“Absolutely,” Brown said. “You guys can make a statement every day that I’m a diva, but you can ask these guys, I put my heart on the line every day because I’m out there giving 100 percent effort.”
And to that end, Brown made it clear he still enjoys being a Steeler and is as passionate about the game as ever. His intense interview on Wednesday proved as much.
“Absolutely it’s fun — I don’t take this for granted,” Brown said. “But losing is not fun. I take it serious.”
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