PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin doesn’t like talking about the way his players use social media. The Pittsburgh Steelers coach would prefer to stick to football.
Antonio Brown, however, isn’t giving his boss much choice.
Tomlin said he plans to speak to the All-Pro wide receiver “directly” after Brown caused a bit of a commotion — again — by taking to Twitter to vent after a former team employee suggested Brown’s stardom is a result of playing with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Brown responded by tweeting “trade me let’s find out.” When asked Tuesday if one of the NFL’s most dynamic players has asked to be moved, Tomlin responded “no, no” and laughed.
Still, Tomlin believes the seemingly incessant inquiries about Brown’s online behavior is growing tiresome.
“It’s important that we understand our position, the light that shines on us and the responsibility that comes with it,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin plans to provide Brown with a reminder on Wednesday when the team returns to practice. He wasn’t able to on Monday because Brown did not show up for work.
Tomlin declined to say whether Brown’s absence was excused, though in the past Tomlin has typically offered an explanation when a player is out.
Brown caught nine passes for 67 yards in a 42-37 loss to Kansas City on Sunday that dropped Pittsburgh to 0-1-1. He has 18 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown through two games, a pace that would easily have him top 100 receptions for a sixth straight season.
Yet Brown has struggled at times to keep his emotions in check, be it on social media or on the sideline. Cameras caught him venting in the second half against Kansas City, and when Roethlisberger dived into the end zone for a 3-yard score that drew the Steelers within five points on Sunday, Brown walked slowly off the field while his teammates celebrated.
Tomlin downplayed Brown’s sideline behavior, calling “negative exchanges” the byproduct of not playing well as a whole. The Steelers are off to their worst start since 2013, when they dropped their first four games and missed the playoffs.
Brown’s in-game behavior has long been a flashpoint. He famously punched a Gatorade bucket in Baltimore last September and more than once had semi-heated exchanges with former offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Roethlisberger isn’t worried about Brown’s outburst on Sunday .
“I think it was just frustration,” Roethlisberger said during his weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan. “He’s a competitor, and he wants to be the best in the world, and he probably is the best in the world. So he wants to make every play and catch every ball and every touchdown, which is what every player wants to do.”
Every player, however, has not regularly forced the Steelers to either reprimand him – Brown drew a strong rebuke from Tomlin after livestreaming a locker room celebration following a playoff victory over Kansas City in 2017 – or issue an apology, as the club did last week when Brown threatened an ESPN reporter on Twitter for the way he was portrayed in a story .
Tomlin suspended former wide receiver Martavis Bryant for a game last season after Bryant went on Instagram and said he should be playing ahead of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Tomlin said that situation is different because it was one player going after another as opposed to Brown’s latest episodes.
Brown will almost certainly be available next Monday when Pittsburgh travels to surprising Tampa Bay (2-0).
“He’s been a significant reason why we’ve been successful around here,” Tomlin said of Brown. “He’s going to continue to be.”
Notes: RG David DeCastro (fractured right hand), CB Joe Haden (hamstring) and DT Tyson Alualu (shoulder), who all sat out last week, could return to play against the Buccaneers. … RT Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) and LG Ramon Foster (knee) will be monitored throughout the week. … Tomlin said it’s possible the team could work out punters with Jordan Berry struggling. Berry has a net average of 34.8 through two weeks, a full 5 yards lower than his net average in 2017.