“It’s special,” said Brown during a press conference at the team’s training camp at St. Vincent College. “With a unique organization such as the Steelers are and knowing I’m going to be around here for the long-term is something amazing and is really special. It’s something that I take pride in and I know that it’s a tremendous honor. It provides me with some security and allows me to play football and focus on winning games.
“What I do realize is that I’ve been given a great opportunity to be around an organization that is really special. I’m really honored and thankful about that. All I can do now is work to give them my best as long as I’m here.”
Brown, who was joined at the press conference by general manager Kevin Colbert, Coach Mike Tomlin and his four-year old son Antonio, had a breakout season in 2011 earning him team MVP honors.
“Antonio is very deserving of this contract,” said Colbert. “In the two years he’s been with us, he’s continued to make plays. The first year watching him practice, you knew that this kid was going to have a pretty good career and we’re excited for the next six years that are going to be with us.”
Signing a player to a long-term deal after only two seasons is not a common practice, but the Steelers had enough faith in Brown’s ability to do so.
“Even in Antonio’s rookie year, when you watched him practice, and the way he practiced, and how hard he practiced, and how many plays he made in practice, you could see that he was going to have a great second year, which he did,” said Colbert. “The first season when he practiced and you’d see a ball in the air, and then he’d be coming down with it against our starting defense, it just seemed like he kept making plays. He’s a young guy, and we anticipate his development as a receiver is only going to get better the more he plays. It’s exciting for us, and I know it’s exciting for Antonio, because he’s one of our hardest workers and he’s never going to be satisfied.”
While he has only started three games in his first two seasons Brown has emerged as a player the team can easily depend on, and he plans on making sure of that by not letting the contract make him feel complacent, instead making it drive him to be even better.
“You always want to get better from last year,” said Brown. “You don’t want to place a limit on anything, but you always want to do more year-in and year-out. You expect it and you want to rise to the occasion.
“All my focus right now is to prepare and build a foundation for the year. I’m putting all I have into it so when it comes time for the fall I’m ready to go.”
Last season Brown finished second on the Steelers with 69 receivers for 1,108 yards. He became the first player in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 return yards (1,062).
Whether Brown is used in the return game or not this season is something that still has to play out.
“He’ll be available for us in that regard when I call on him,” said Tomlin. “I’m sure he’ll be tapping me on the shoulder though. We’re not closing the door on that but we are looking at some young, promising guys.”
Brown said the contract talks haven’t been any kind of distraction for him in camp so far, that football has been his only focus.
“I haven’t even taken time to focus on it,” said Brown. “Being in training camp, my focus right now is to be in great shape, to get prepared, to play preseason games, and get ready for the year. I’m here to play football, to build for the year, and training camp is where we start our foundation for the year.”
“Everybody here who has their hand in the pile is willing and capable,” said Brown. “We have to do what we have to do. The men who are going to be here are going to give us their all. When Mike gets here, we will embrace him.”
Brown will have more of a chance to showcase his talents this season as a full-time starter and what he can bring to the table in that role is something that will soon unfold.
“We are going to see,” said Brown. “I have three under my belt, and I’m looking forward to having this year to start fully.
“It’s all about what’s important now, and what’s important now is me focusing on getting ready for training camp, getting on the same page, learning the offense, and getting ready for the year.”