Antonio Brown's with the Oakland Raiders is causing some to wonder when Brown starting exuding such behavior. It's also causing some to blame the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown's former team, for the actions Brown continues to display in Oakland.
Brown reportedly started showing signs of his destructiveness in 2012, shortly after he received his first contract extension. During practice, Brown got into a shouting match with then-Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a beloved figure in Pittsburgh who was fiercely revered by his defensive players. Brown, according to a Yahoo Sports report, ruffled feathers before practice while saying that he was the new face of the franchise and that he shouldn't be touched during practice.
He then reportedly went after LeBeau after LeBeau tried to calm down tensions between Brown and his defense.
"Coming into the next practice, he just got his money, he cusses out Dick LeBeau," former Steelers safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark said earlier this year, via ProFootballTalk.com. "Coach LeBeau, somebody who Troy [Polamalu], myself, James Farrior, all respected so much that anything he ever said, there's no reply. We almost got into a physical altercation that day, me and Antonio Brown. Because my thing was, this is not how we behave. This is not how we act. And for sure we don't talk to Coach LeBeau that way."
Pittsburgh's defense was so enraged that Polamalu, one of the most mild-mannered players you'd ever meet, wanted full reign to hit Brown during practice.
"I saw Troy get seriously pissed off maybe twice, and this was one of those two times," a source told Yahoo Sports. "Troy was so mad, he says to wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery, 'The receivers are live [targets] the rest of this period.' Which was Troy's way of saying, 'We're going after this guy.'"
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While Polamalu never laid Brown out in practice, Brown continued to cause headaches within the organization. While he put up prolific numbers on Sundays, Brown was consistently late to meetings. He was also late to a slew of public appearances, sometimes forcing fans to wait hours after his scheduled arrival time.
Brown also consistently complained about his lack of involvement in the offense despite catching more passes than any receiver in NFL history over a six-year period. Brown once yelled at quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Brown failed to continue one of his many consecutive receiving single-game streaks. Brown said it was so bad that Roethlisberger didn't return his texts of calls for weeks during that ensuing offseason.
In 2015, former Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller, one of the most respected players in franchise history, pulled Brown aside and told him to stop complaining about his lack of targets. Miller, who retired as season's end, sacrificed part of his 2015 salary so that the Steelers could give Brown a $1 million pay bump that season.
Brown's statistics, money and antics continued to grow over his final years in Pittsburgh. While his play on the field helped Pittsburgh reach the 2016 AFC Championship Game, his Super Bowl.leading up to that game created an unnecessary distraction for his team, which ultimately fell to New England, one game shy of the
Brown appeared to turn a corner in 2017, after the Steelers rewarded him with yet another contract extension that at the time made him the highest paid receiver in NFL history. Aside from his Baltimore Ravens, Brown played and acted like an MVP that season, helping the Steelers go 13-3 during the regular season while playing some of the best football of his career. His performance in that year's playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars -- a game that he played in just weeks after suffering a serious calf injury -- was called the greatest performance by a receiver in playoff history by Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin.in an early-season game against the
Unfortunately for the Steelers, Brown took several significant steps backward in 2018. He had an odd exchange with reports during that summer, essentially saying that Pittsburgh's local media was out to get him. He then said "trade me" on Twitter following the team's Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs before being absent from the following day's mandatory team meeting.
Things came to a point of disrepair -- for Brown, anyway -- after Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin held him out of Pittsburgh's season-finale against the Cincinnati Bengals after Brown properly failed to communicate with team officials during the week. Brown left practice on Wednesday and didn't return to the team until Sunday morning.
While the debate regarding the Steelers' role in Brown's continued behavior is for another article, what we do know is that several members of the Steelers' championship teams -- Polamalu, Clark and Miller -- saw Brown's destructive actions starting to get to the point of no return. That point may be coming now in Oakland, as Brown is down to his final out with his new team.