Antonio Brown‘s default facial expression is an ear-to-ear smile. Not far below the faςade, a fire rages.
“Antonio has done an extremely good job of tricking people,” former teammate Ryan Clark said on ESPN Radio. “He’s done a very good spin job of having us think, or making people think who don’t know him, that it’s all about the Pittsburgh Steelers, [Brown is] just a hard worker who’s here to win football games. No, Antonio Brown loves Antonio Brown. If you listen to people talk about him. If you listen to the media, a lot of time the fans, they have an adoration for him that is not necessarily a depiction of who he is. He’s like most receivers. He’s selfish.”
Clark spent four years on the same team as Brown, so Clark definitely is in a position to comment on Brown’s true attitude and demeanor. For the most part, Brown has done a great job of creating an image that runs counter to the common perception of Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Which explains why Brown can do things without loud criticism (like broadcast on Facebook Live from the locker room after a playoff game) that Beckham could never do without being the focal point of all tabloids and talk shows in New York and beyond.
Brown’s outburst from Sunday seems like an overreaction, which suggests that he possibly has been suppressing frustration and one specific moment caused him to snap. That snap included swinging sharply at offensive coordinator Todd Haley and knocking his hand away when Haley grabbed Brown from behind. What if Beckham had done that? What if a guy at the bottom of the Pittsburgh depth chart had done that?
While the Steelers aren’t giving Brown a pass, there’s not much more they can do than call him out. After last year’s Facebook fiasco and leaks of moping and other misdeeds that came after the season-ending playoff loss to the Patriots, the Steelers signed him to a four-year, $68 million extension with a $19 million signing bonus. They won’t be cutting him and they won’t be trading him — at least not before his skills diminish or, at the earliest, when they believe they can sell high in advance of the decline.