If you believe the reports, Antonio Brown is a selfish, pouty, diva receiver. Key words being “if you believe the reports.”
Hines Ward does not.
“I don’t think so,” the former Steelers wideout said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He’s a competitor, he wants the ball – I don’t mind a receiver wanting the ball. But he’s young.”
Brown is 28. Ward still thinks that the star wide receiver has much to learn.
“When you try to self-promote and you get excited and you want to bring your fans into your world, 17 minutes of Facebook Live (isn’t the answer),” Ward said. “I know he got paid for it, but you know the locker room: It’s a sacred place. Things are said, moments are shared sometimes – there’s a reason the locker room is closed to the public. It’s because of that. So I think Antonio Brown crossed the line when he brought the outside world into that. Unfortunately for Mike Tomlin, he’s giving this speech about the Patriots. (That) really didn’t help him or the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not that you need extra motivation, but when you call the Patriots the A-word, it’s not a good sign when (you’re leading up) to facing the Patriots.”
Even worse, Brown reportedly whined after DeAngelo Williams scored a touchdown in the AFC Championship, but Ward doesn’t know if that’s true or not.
“You really don’t know,” he said. “There’s stories that go behind the scenes that the media doesn’t have access to. I’ve heard stories where if Antonio didn’t get over 100 yards, there was going to be problems or something like that. But you can’t confirm or deny (those stories). You can’t assume that he’s just pouting. For all receivers, of course we want the ball, but I don’t know if we’re hating on other guys for scoring touchdowns. Jerome Bettis and I, we had this (friendly) touchdown competition. When he would score, I would say, ‘No!’ And when I would score, he’d be like, ‘No!’ It was all fun and games, but I think it helps push us to become better players. The competition brings out the best in everyone. So I don’t really know since I’m not on the team, but I know Antonio Brown is a competitor. He wants the ball. I don’t mind that as a wide receiver, but if that is the case (and he’s whining about not getting the ball), that is something that needs to be dissolved quick and fast. You don’t want that to be a cancer, being a me-guy. One person can’t win a Super Bowl.”
Ben Roethlisberger is well-aware of that. He’s played in three Super Bowls and won two of them. Still, he wasn’t happy with his team’s performance against the Patriots and days later hinted at retirement.
Ward isn’t buying that, either.
“I’d be shocked if Ben Roethlisberger retired,” said Ward, who played with Big Ben from 2004-11. “I know he played his whole career, he’s had some major injuries along the way, but think about the weapons he’s got coming back. Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, he gets Martavis Bryant, who’s coming back, so he has a great opportunity to make another run at the Super Bowl in the next year or two. The defense is young, they’re coming along, and then look at it: $18 million. That’s a lot of chips on the line right there. It’d be very hard for anyone to retire, I think.”
Ward also weighed in on Mike Tomlin, who has received considerable criticism this season despite winning nine straight games after a slow, injury-riddled start to the year. The Steelers, however, looked thoroughly overmatched against the Patriots and lost 36-17.
Is the criticism of Tomlin fair?
“It’s fair because he’s a defensive-minded guy,” said Ward, who played for Tomlin for five seasons. “He’s been a great defensive coordinator for many years, so you would think if you have a defensive-minded coach, you would think defense would be top priority. But you have to factor in the players. They’re very young in the secondary, the linebackers, I think, came into their own, and you lose Cam Heyward. That’s a big blow to the defensive line. You have to get pressure on Tom Brady. If you don’t get pressure on him, he’s going to pick you apart. It’s not just pressure from the outside, it’s pressure up the middle. When you get pressure in front of Tom Brady’s face, he gets happy feet. He’s not the most mobile guy in the world. But in order to beat Tom Brady, you have to hit him. You have to get after him. I think the Steelers, that’s what they wanted to do, but game-plan-wise and out on the field, they couldn’t do that. That’s why Tom Brady kind of picked them apart.”