Steelers' welcomes Ben's 'constructive criticism'
Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown brushed aside criticism from his longtime quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in the wake of last Sunday's loss to the Broncos in Denver.
On Friday, Brown called it "constructive criticism" and said, "it's not personal." The teammates have been critical of each other previously, but that hasn't prevented them from being productive on Sundays.
Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his weekly radio show that Brown needed to run his route "flat" on the quarterback's game-ending interception in the closing minutes.
With the Steelers trailing the Broncos by a touchdown and facing third-and-goal from the Denver 2-yard line in the final minute, Roethlisberger flicked a quick pass over the middle, just beyond the line of scrimmage, intended for Brown.
But Brown's route took him toward the back of the end zone, and Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris made the interception. It appeared on the video that Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby would also have had a shot at the interception before the pass could have made it to Brown.
On his radio show, Roethlisberger said in hindsight that he wished he had tried to throw to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on all four downs after the Steelers reached first-and-goal at the 3.
Roethlisberger threw an incompletion to Smith-Schuster on first down, and the Steelers gained 1 yard on a run by James Conner on second down.
If Brown didn't like his quarterback's comments, he didn't let on to reporters.
"Ben's my guy, man," Brown said. "I love him. Anything he says, there's a method to his madness. It's only to inspire the group, encourage the group to be better. That's the type of guy he is."
Brown, who has 71 catches this season for 874 yards and 11 touchdowns, questioned whether Roethlisberger actually intended to be critical at all, saying, "I don't know if it's been misconstrued or changed in regards to how you guys put it out there, but he means well. ... He's the only one in this locker room that's probably got a championship under his belt."
On Wednesday, Roethlisberger said calling out teammates comes with the territory of being a veteran.
"Being around for a long time, being with a lot of different players, you have to know how to motivate guys in different ways," he said. "That's part of being a leader and a captain -- just understanding players."
The Steelers (7-3-1), who lead the AFC North by 1 1/2 games over the Baltimore Ravens (6-5), will host the Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) on Sunday night.
(With inputs from agencies.)