WR Brown has to lead for Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Antonio Brown is coming off one of the two best statistical seasons ever by a Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. He is the only wideout on the roster who played more than 200 snaps for the Steelers last season.

And respected veteran Jerricho Cotchery is now catching passes for the Carolina Panthers.

Despite all of this, Brown isn't ready to call the wide receivers meeting room his own.

"I can't claim it yet but working towards it," said Brown, who caught 110 passes for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. "I want to be the guy that sets the standard and hopefully other guys will follow."

Brown has earned the right to lead the wide receivers based on his production and his work ethic. The latter is, in a word, maniacal. This is after all a player who will put in a full work day at the Steelers' practice facility and then go to a gym to work out at night.

And this is during the season.

There is another reason why Brown has to lead the wide receivers this season: The two-time Pro Bowler made it incumbent upon himself to do so after he criticized former Steelers captain Ryan Clark in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and questioned team unity during consecutive 8-8 seasons.

Whether Browns was right or not, the fourth-year veteran has to assume the lead in making sure there are no divisions in the Steelers' locker room moving forward.

And that there are no agendas that are incompatible with the Steelers returning to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus and re-establishing themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Brown has already proven he can lead by example. Now he has to help bring along younger wide receiver such as Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant.

"I've got to set the tempo, have a leadership role and explain to guys assignments and what is expected," Brown said.

He took the lead in outlining what is expected when he went public with his criticism of Clark and perceived rifts that had pervaded the Steelers' locker room.

His next step is making sure others follow him in upholding that standard.