PITTSBURGH -- Antonio Brown has advice for young playmakers in his own locker room struggling with off-field issues.
He’s seen teammates Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant run into problems with substance abuse, resulting in a combined six games missed in the first quarter of the season, when the Pittsburgh Steelers could use the help navigating a tough schedule.
Brown entered the league with the rep as an unpolished receiver out of Central Michigan who thought he was better than he was. Brown was right, of course -- he was better than his sixth-round billing -- but he wasn’t at first and had to earn that billing. Steelers coaches remember a time when Brown had trouble properly taking a play call.
He has reworked his career to perfection, becoming arguably the league’s best receiver while staying out of trouble off the field. The Steelers, who rarely move around money for the player’s benefit, pushed $2 million of 2016 money into a 2015 signing bonus for Brown.
Brown sees similar potential in Bryant, whose ability is obvious. That is why Bown is admittedly disappointed in Bryant for multiple failed drug tests.
"You have to be professional on and off the field," Bryant said. "You have to take care of your business. You’ve got to make right decisions. I tell Martavis all the time, 'it’s all about who you have around you.' You want to have people around you who bring you up and put you in the right position."
Bryant and Brown will always have the common thread of overachieving based on draft status. But Bryant has to make that work for him now.
The Steelers want to help Bryant with his problems, with the player scheduled to speak with coach Mike Tomlin on Friday about best practices for avoiding trouble.
It’s time to evolve. Brown made that decision years ago.
"I want to be special. I’m not a sixth-round pick anymore," Brown said.