“We have a lot of young guys,…A lot of young guys haven’t been around here for the history of this team. I want to make sure guys understand the importance of being here, the tradition and what is required from our peers, coaches and everybody inside this building. You have to know the history of something if you are a part of it. You have to know where it started, where it came from and what it’s about. You know where you are with it now, and where you want to go. I can help teach guys about that and take that type of approach. Every man here has to understand the importance of what the Steelers logo stands for, the men that came before us and wore the jersey and we have to understand the importance of it, be humbled by it and work with that mentality.”
- Antonio Brown (Interview with Steelers.com)
Tip of the cap, Antonio Brown. In fact, I am downright encouraged to see one of the franchise’s younger and emerging stars actively willing to take on a leadership role as the Steelers enter what figures to be a long-term rebuilding era (4+ years in my opinion, but that is for another article).
As we have all read somewhere or another, this offseason could see the releases of stalwart veterans like James Harrison, Willie Colon, and Brett Keisel. In addition, other franchise staples like Casey Hampton, Larry Foote, and Max Starks could all not be tendered after their contracts expire over the Spring too. I should also add that these potential events could come on the heels of the 2011-2012 offseason. You remember what happened last Spring right? When the franchise did not offer contracts to cornerstones Aaron Smith, James Farrior, and Hines Ward, and all three shortly thereafter retired. Thus, if there is anything which this Steelers team needs in the immediate future, it is leadership, and a lot of it.
But you know what?
Brown can make all the “leadership” and “teaching” claims he wants to in the present. But until he actually shows that he is capable of assuming such an important role on one of the N.F.L.’s premier franchises, then I’ll reserve my excitement on the matter altogether.
As far as “being humbled,” Brown could certainly start that by tempering his infamous post-play shenanigans for one. You hint at wanting to set a good example for some of the younger players. How about acting like you have made a First Down before? You know, instead of pointing the ball out after a routine play to move the chains. I mean, I get it, you’re stoked that you are able to make huge plays, and possess a ridiculous amount of athleticism and vacuums for hands. Yet does the need really exist for the constant theatrics surrounding some of the most pedestrian (by N.F.L. standards of course) of accomplishments? Santonio Holmes pulled the same garbage when he was here from 2006-2009. And outside of his game-winning Touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII, those theatrics were largely unnecessary and annoying during his four year stint in the Steel City.
Should I go into the dancing after your infrequent Touchdowns? Or how about hustling, or not, after a loose ball when it is in the End Zone? You know, what you failed do against the Chargers in a crucial game last year. How about not prancing from the 10-15 Yard Line on a Punt Return as you are taking it into the End Zone like you did against the Redskins? The truth of the matter is that “Talk is Cheap,” so all of the “rah-rah” and “tradition” rhetoric mean nothing unless you step up and act like a professional.
To #84’s credit, he at least has not publicly disgraced the team like many others of his fellow immature teammates (Ben Roethlisberger, “Sansmokio,” Alameda Ta’amu, and Chris Rainey are just a few of many) have in recent memory. So from a maturity and leadership standpoint, Brown has a better understanding of that than some others on the team. Plus, it is at least comforting to see that Brown appears to understand the value of leadership, and is currently looking towards the past for some great examples within his own franchise.
As I stated before, what the Steelers could definitely use right now is some maturity and stability as the rebuilding process heats up over the next few years. Much like Ward, Smith, Farrior, Hampton, Alan Faneca, and Joey Porter all did during the early 2000’s, Pittsburgh could definitely benefit from a core of their best young players acting like seasoned veterans on and off the field. The Steelers’ Wide Receiving corps will definitely need a leader over the next few years, and Brown is the only one under contract through the 2014 season. The incoming Draft Picks and new acquisitions sure to arrive in Pittsburgh could very well be leaning on Brown for guidance sooner than we think.
Maturity, Leadership, and a Respect for the Past
Will Brown illustrate these values in 2013 and beyond like a Hines Ward did throughout his storied career?
Or will he make like “Butterfingers” Wallace? You know, pissing, moaning, and refusing to show-up for important offseason events like Training Camp and the Preseason.
All we can do is fans is play “The Waiting Game,” and hope Brown emerges as a franchise leader.