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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 1:00 am

Steelers' Brown tried avoiding 'pressure'

Left OTAs to train in Miami, close to family

WILL GRAVES | Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Antonio Brown didn't skip out on the vast majority of the Pittsburgh Steelers organized team activities to make a statement. Or to disrespect the backup quarterbacks. Or to take a stand alongside running back Le'Veon Bell.

The All-Pro insists he simply felt more comfortable working out back home in Miami, where he could spend time with his five children and escape what he described as the “pressure” he faces from outside forces daily in Pittsburgh.

“I needed that precious time with myself to get my mind right,” Brown said Tuesday as the Steelers began a mandatory three-day minicamp.

A move the 29-year-old star called necessary as he prepares for his ninth season. Brown is typically a fixture at the voluntary workouts, where he is usually among the few players in actual football pants instead of shorts.

This spring, however, he participated in the first two days, then jetted off to Florida. The fact that starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appeared for the first day of OTAs before taking time off for what he called a planned family vacation was purely coincidental.

“I play with any quarterback, no matter who's here,” Brown said. “I play with the Steelers. It's not one guy that I (catch passes from).”

Brown dismissed any insinuation that he left OTAs because he didn't want to work with the second or third string. He also expressed frustration with media for asking other players to comment on his absence.

“You guys making up stories to ask these guys stuff that they shouldn't be dealing with,” Brown said. “You know, that's the pressure of being a professional athlete. Everyday scrutiny. Everyday pressure. It's hard to be free.”

Brown, however, struggled to be specific about how the attention that comes with being one of the NFL's top players negatively affects him.

The only player to have five consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions stressed he wasn't calling out Bell when he was questioned last month about the star running back's decision to stay away from the team while waiting to sign his franchise tender.

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