Antonio Brown bemoans constant pressure from media: 'Am I really free?'

PITTSBURGH -- Before taking the field for the Steelers' minicamp, Antonio Brown had to address his frustrations away from the field.

Brown told reporters in front of his locker that he feels "constantly under pressure" and cited the need to clear his mind for missing the past two weeks of voluntary OTAs.

"I can't go nowhere and work out by myself, fans come meet me at the field -- I can't do nothing normal," Brown said Tuesday. "You guys write about me every day. My mom and my kids see it. So we have to deal with these type of things. I started to think to myself, am I really free? I can't really express myself in this game. I can't really tell you how I feel.

"You guys make the pressure to put pressure on me all the time. Am I really free? I got to asking myself that in regards to taking time away from my kids. ... I had to get away to free my mind."

Specifically, the star wide receiver took issue with media asking teammates why he skipped all but two OTA sessions and the depiction of Brown's comments about teammate Le'Veon Bell, who's away from the team for the second straight offseason because of rocky franchise-tag negotiations.

Asked last month what advice he'd give Bell based on his own experiences, Brown said, "the first rule of getting better is showing up."

"You can't make anything better without showing up ... [To] make everyone understand where he wants to be -- he wants to be here not just for this year, but years to come -- come out here and show up," Brown said on May 23 about Bell. "Show up and get better and show guys you're serious."

Brown believes those comments were misrepresented.

"You guys paint me a picture to talk about Le'Veon," he said Tuesday. "I'm not involved in Le'Veon's business or his contract. You guys write about it and say, 'Oh, AB says show up.' I just said the first rule of getting better is showing up. I didn't say show up. He's got his own business.

"But that's what I go back to referring -- you guys put the pressure on me all the time in regards to life and regards to everything, and we're just supposed to take it. That ain't freedom."

Brown began the interview by taking his shirt off, then expressing excitement over the Steelers' prospects for this season. He said he did not miss OTAs because of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's absence and said he'd play with any quarterback.

After a few minutes in, Brown went deeper.

"Am I really free? What am I playing this game for? To acquire records for who?" Brown said. "When I'm done playing, no one's going to remember what my stats were in 2016 or my stats were in 2015.

"Those are things I have to clear my mind to get away from the game -- a lot of issues this game presents that you guys didn't really cover or no one really says anything about. I'm just left to deal with the madness you guys make up and create, and it's like, no one even cares."

Roethlisberger missed all but three OTA sessions because of a preplanned family vacation. Brown said the perception that he didn't want to catch passes from backups shows a lack of respect, especially for rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph.

"But no one cares about what they write about or what they say about people. I'm just left to deal with it," Brown said.

Brown, 29, is coming off an NFL-record fifth straight 100-catch season. He said he's not venting, simply "stating the reality."

"You guys make up pressure and put pressure on guys like myself, and it's not fair," Brown said. "You're asking my teammates when I'm out when I'm trying to get my mind right and do my job well, you're asking my teammates why I'm not here and you guys are making up stories to ask these guys stuff they shouldn't even be dealing with.

"That's the pressure of being a professional athlete -- everyday scrutiny, everyday pressure. It's hard to be free."

Brown is active on social media and often highlights his workout whereabouts on his various accounts.

Reached later Tuesday, Brown said his venting session "felt good."

"Any time you get to express yourself in a positive way, it's a good thing," he told ESPN. "I want to inspire change. I'm not out here trying to be a preacher, but I want to speak things that are truthful, not to be combative, but to let people know you're aware of what's out there. We are human. We are men. I just hate to be put under the pressure where anything can be said. You have to explain the situation. I want to help the athletes coming after me."