Don’t be blindsided—the NFL preseaon begins on August 3. To get in the mood, SI spoke with Steelers receiver Antonio Brown—who, along with the Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley, is now a spokesperson for DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket. Brown spoke about the Steelers’ upcoming training camp and everything that comes after, including a December matchup with a cornerback duo that Brown thinks could be the best in the league.
SI: When I say the words training camp, what do you think of?
Antonio Brown: Football season. But also consistency, preparation and developing a foundation.
SI: The Steelers are one of the few organizations that still hold their training camp at a small college, Saint Vincent. What do you think about doing that?
AB: I like it. Nothing gets in the way, no distractions from 8:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night, it’s all football.
SI: What’s your favorite way to spend down time at camp?
AB: We usually have a rookie show when camp is almost over. It’s a chance to get to know the rookies and to have fun and set the pace for the season.
SI: What’d you do for the show?
AB: I imitated James Harrison—the major muscles, socks all the way up, ankle weights. He laughed.
SI: On a bye week, who is your favorite QB and defense to watch?
AB: Aaron Rodgers. I love the way he scrambles and how he plays the game—he always makes great decisions with the ball. On defense, I can’t wait to watch Houston once they get J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney going. That’s going to be good.
SI: You play the Patriots in December. What’s your scouting report on Stephon Gilmore, New England’s new corner?
AB: He’s big-time, a first-round pick out of South Carolina who wants the opportunity to cover the best guy on the other team. He’s gonna be a great player, and now he’s on a great team that’ll put him in position.
SI: Along with Malcolm Butler, do you think that’s now the best CB duo in the league?
AB: Those are two solid guys, you dream about two guys like that.
SI: Your new extension (four years, $68 million) made you the highest paid receiver in NFL history. What did that mean to you?
AB: It meant raising the level of standards for the guys that come behind me. Now it’s time to elevate not only my game but the games around me and give people motivation. The battle of getting better is never ending.
SI: What will it take for unsigned RB Le’Veon Bell to get a deal?
AB: Man, you’ve got to talk to the front office about that. I think he’ll get something done. I don’t think our team wants to go without him. I think it’ll be amazing if we can keep the guys together, and he’ll be good for our Super Bowl run.
SI: What did you make of Richard Sherman’s comments about NFL players needing to stand up and demand better contracts?
AB: The NFL is the only sport where you can be on a team five years and your contract’s not guaranteed. You can go through the whole process of training camp and then as soon as it’s the season, it’s a week-to-week job and they can cut you at any moment, or you can get hurt at any moment. It’s not like that in other sports. Football’s the only sport that’s doing that. We’ve got a long way to go, and each player’s situation is different, but players are getting smarter and realizing that’s not right.
SI: The league has loosened its policy on touch celebrations? I imagine you’re glad to see that?
AB: I am. Anytime you get the opportunity to celebrate not only with yourself but your teammates after doing something special, that’s what it’s all about.
SI: Have you started thinking about what those celebrations?
SI: Any hints?
AB: Stay cool, brother.