Antonio Brown on modest start: 'I can't throw it to myself'

PITTSBURGH -- Antonio Brown had a go-to answer when asked about his modest start to the season and his plans to break out.

"Watch the tape," he said.

Brown referred to the tape eight times Friday in a one-minute span during his media interview at his locker.

Brown is coming off a turbulent Week 3 that included missing a work day due to a personal matter, tweeting "Trade me let's find out" to a critic who said he's not the same receiver without Ben Roethlisberger and a sideline confrontation with coordinator Randy Fichtner.

Brown bounced back with a touchdown in a 30-27 win at Tampa Bay.

But JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (356), with Brown ranking second with 24 catches for 210 yards.

Brown, who ranks third in the NFL with 42 targets, looked to big-picture goals and stressed he can't control when the ball comes his way.

"My statistics are already there. I've already done everything from a statistical point," Brown said. "Obviously, it's out of my control. I can't throw it to myself. But what's important is we continue to win. I'm getting a lot of respect out there. Guys are doubling me, tripling me. But what's new? We've got to continue to win. Winning is most important. Obviously I think I'm the top-rated receiver from 2010 (among) who's in the league. It's all about winning at this point."

Multiple times, Brown referenced not having control over whether the ball is thrown his way.

From 2013-17, Brown set an NFL record with five straight seasons with at least 100 catches. Last year, Brown was on an MVP-caliber pace with 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns before suffering a Week 15 injury.

Roethlisberger still targets Brown early and often but admits he's not forcing the ball to his top receiver as much these days, acknowledging the supporting cast is getting open and defenses are still double-teaming Brown.

Smith-Schuster said he expects more attention from defenses, which will bring more balance to the attack.

"I think that's on the come, very soon," Smith-Schuster said. "I think I'm going to get a double-team. More and more as time comes on, they're going to slow me down ... Right now, AB is taking the double-teams, I'm able to get my plays in. When the time comes, if I get double-teamed, someone has to make those plays."

Asked if he considers himself a No. 1-caliber receiver, Smith-Schuster deferred to Brown while breeding confidence.

"Man, to be behind Antonio, I feel like I do everything possible just to keep up with that," Smith-Schuster said. "So, yeah."

Brown is confident the big plays with Roethlisberger will come over a 16-game season. His media session was tamer than a week ago, when Brown responded to the criticism with defiance. Asked about the change in tone, Brown said he wasn't upset last week and is blessed to play football, while teasing something bigger.

"It's all about winning a championship, getting in the Hall of Fame," Brown said. "It's bigger than me. Bigger than stats. I'm trying to do something special. As long as we continue to win, the number will add up themselves. I'm still doing my job, regardless of if the ball is coming. I'm still running full speed, being a professional. Just gotta continue to do what's right."