Antonio Brown Working Into A Leadership Role

After a breakout All-Pro season in his fourth year, now seems the time for the natural evolution of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to blossom into a team leader. It is a topic that I’ve already touched on earlier this offseason after the departure of Jerricho Cotchery.

There were hints of that last year, and his work ethic has always been a trait through which he has been able to lead by example. He has already made league history twice in his first four seasons, first by becoming the first player to record 1000 receiving yards and 1000 return yards in the same year, and then by recording at least five receptions and 50 yards in every game during a single season.

But leading in word and leading in deed, while both valuable, are related, but different, and the Steelers are in need of both. He has already proven to be the latter, and now seems the moment for him to develop into the former.

Due to standard roster movements and financial obligations, Brown now finds himself as the veteran receiver on the team—arguably the most accomplished—and certainly one of the cornerstones of the offense.

With a young offensive line and a young backfield, he, Heath Miller, Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, and Ramon Foster now make up the brain trust along the offensive side of the ball, all of whom have been with the team for at least four seasons.

Once part of the Young Money Crew with Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, Brown—the youngest—was the first to cash in on the group’s name when he signed a six-year contract in excess of $40 million after just two seasons. Wallace followed the money to Miami in 2013 and Sanders did the same in Denver just this year.

Now Brown finds himself surrounded by the likes of Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye, and Justin Brown, with Lance Moore—the only one shorter than him—providing veteran presence, but also being asked to learn a new system after spending his entire career in New Orleans.

He knows now more than ever, through his experience and his accomplishments, that his words carry weight with his teammates. While he’s by no means been averse to speaking to the media or being in front of the camera, I think we saw something a bit different yesterday when he talked about another vocal former team leader, free safety Ryan Clark.

It was part of a broader conversation about the need for the Steelers locker room to regain the camaraderie that helped contribute to the success that Brown was exposed to early in his career, when they went 12-4 in consecutive seasons. And I believe, like his head coach, he was using the media to speak to his guys.

Clark’s remarks earlier this offseason just happened to be a symptom of the ailment that Brown diagnosed in the locker room. His idea wasn’t to treat the symptom (i.e. specifically admonishing Clark, which is how the original story headline framed the conversation), but rather to help build up to a common goal: a united locker room.

When you see people taking shots who were on the same team and wearing the same jerseys, that’s a sign of not having that team camaraderie. That’s something we need to get back, something we haven’t had for the past two years.

Our business is winning … and I think we’ve definitely got to get better in that area…We’ve kind of got a new team and a new environment, and I’m excited to get the draftees in and get everybody together so we can get rolling.

Ryan Clark is the team’s past. LaMarr Woodley is in the past. It’s time for Brown to help commandeer the team of the future, with Wheaton, Le’Veon Bell, David DeCastro, and others hopefully forming the core of a new, united locker room that fosters success in the business of winning.

It can be debated whether or not Brown’s remarks, particularly those about Clark, in the end work to accomplish that goal, but I think his intention here was clear. And I think it’s something the Steelers hope to see more of in the future.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    He definitely needs to be the leader in the WR room. He does without a doubt lead by example in his workout regiment and dedication to his body and craft, but he does also now need to the vocal leader, him and Lance Moore have been there done that, so to speak.

  • dkoy85

    That’s all I saw when I read Brown’s comments- Comments directed to the team, not to Clark. The message I saw was, we got rid of our dirty laundry, the locker room cancers, and now it’s time to get back to the Steelers way. We need to band together like brothers. I had absolutely no problem with Brown letting everybody know the way Clark acted is not how it needs to be done.

    Just search “Joey Porter they shot me in Denver” post game speech him and Bettis gave. It makes me wonder who on both sides of the ball the last couple years would give a speech like that. Maybe Taylor? I think V Williams will be that this year, and I’m hoping the offense rallies around somebody. These young guys are learning how to win, and once they start winning more and make it to the post season they will band together just like the SB team of the 2000’s. That’s how you build a team. That’s how you get guys to truly, and selflessly, buy into adversity and an us against the world mentality.

    With Brown’s commitment to the game, I’m hoping he can take on a fiery, vocal leadership role. Here’s to watching this team develop over the next couple years!

  • steeltown

    Yea, this is what happens when veterans depart and a Team is in a youth transition, you start finding out who is the next in line to step up. But, when you really think about it, we still have most of the Offensive leaders. It’s not as if losing Wallace, Sanders and Dwyer will have any effect in that department. Losing Cotchery, yes, but that’s where AB and Moore come into the conversation, regarding WR leadership

  • dkoy85

    I agree. However, I’d really like to see an offensive player become an emotional leader. Somebody the team wins a superbowl for, like Bettis. Now I’m not naive enough to believe that’s the only thing they played for, but it was a big driving factor in the teams unity. I just don’t see that type of leader… yet. They are rare, but most great teams have them.

  • AndyR34

    I agree with this, but unless his public airing of issues is within the context framed by Matthew in this article, I have a concern with his choice of venues for demonstrating vocal leadership. He needs to keep it in the locker room IMHO. I think he has been too public with his vocalization.

  • tim

    I could not disagree with you more on that, it’s one thing had Clarke been on the team, made the comments and then Antonio Brown came back at him in the media, but it wasn’t like that Clark,is no longer on the team and Brown was defending his teammates.we haven’t heard of any other leaks or anything else like that coming out of the locker room……other than Clark, and IF you really look at it he’s had THE biggest mouth on the team…Wood was called out, yes but it needed to be done and he STILL did nada about improving his game, IMO……
    AB is NOW, whether anyone likes it or not, a team leader and I believe it absolutely a GOOD thing that he addressed the issue the way he did……and if anyone has m oticed Brown waited it seems until Clark was OFF the team to address it in the media….who KNOWS if AB called him or anyone in the team called him to tell him how they felt about that but, it seems maybe AB hasnt if Clark is now responding on Twitter saying” we babysat your kid…..maybe you dont know what a good teammate is!” What a douche thing to write to defend yourself…..sometimes being a friend and being a teammate are two totally different things!

  • JohnB

    If he wants to be a leader he cant act the way he did at the end of the year that got Ben mad at him. Cant be a leader when guys on your side don’t want to even talk to you.

  • ScottBB

    If he is one of the leaders this team is in big trouble. Same young money WR that got himself benched last year. He’s no leader at all.