Brown on criticism by Big Ben: ‘I can take it’

2:58 PM ETJeremy FowlerESPN Staff Writer CloseESPN staff writer
Previously a college football reporter for
University of Florida graduatePITTSBURGH — Antonio Brown takes shots over the middle — even from his quarterback — and keeps getting up.”I’ve got big shoulders. I can take it,” Brown told the media from his locker room Friday. “Constructive criticism is only for you to get better. It’s not personal.”Why JuJu Smith-Schuster is outpacing Antonio BrownWith Antonio Brown still drawing lots of attention, second-year Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is making opponents pay a big price.Week 13 NFL score predictions: A guide to best games, moreWinners and projections for every matchup, plus fantasy nuggets to get you through the weekend. Catch up on Week 13 here.Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was critical of Brown’s route-running on his weekly radio show, saying the receiver needed to run his route “flat” on a third-down, goal-line interception in the final minutes of Sunday’s 24-17 loss to Denver. Roethlisberger also said he wished he had thrown to JuJu Smith-Schuster on all four downs at the goal line.Roethlisberger on Wednesday defended his ability to critique teammates, citing status and tenure.”Being around for a long time, being with a lot of different players, you have to know how to motivate guys in different ways,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s part of being a leader and a captain — just understanding players. Sometimes you just grab them off to the side; sometimes you have to be honest with them. And so, I think I’ve earned the right to be able to do that, as long as I’ve been here. And I’ll be just as critical on myself in front of you guys as well.”Brown has no problems with that.”Ben’s my guy, man. I love him. Anything he says, there’s a method to his madness,” said Brown, who’s preparing for a home matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. “It’s only to inspire the group, encourage the group to be better. That’s the type of guy he is.”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.”Roethlisberger won Super Bowls during the 2005 and 2008 seasons but has put up his most prolific numbers with Brown, who has 804 receptions since entering the league in 2010.The two have been through this before. Last season, Roethlisberger criticized Brown for tossing a Gatorade cooler on the sideline in Baltimore. The two overcame that incident to combine for 1,533 yards in less than 14 games.Guard David DeCastro said the duo always has a way of working things out as “a relationship that will go down in the [NFL] history books” rivaling Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison, Joe Montana-Jerry Rice and others.”Check the history. We’ve got a lot of great history. We’ll continue to make history,” Brown said. “We have that relationship where we can challenge each other, encourage each other. That’ the relationship you want to have with your quarterback.”Brown has 11 touchdowns on the season but is second on the team in receptions (71) and yards (874) behind Smith-Schuster, who’s surpassed 1,000 yards in his second season.But Smith-Schuster said this week there’s no consideration about stats, and he made it clear that Brown is still the top option as a double-team magnet. Brown added Smith-Schuster makes defensive backs in one-on-one coverage pay.As for Roethlisberger’s comment about Smith-Schuster’s goal-line targets, Brown quipped: “Me and Ben have 800 catches. I think JuJu can deserve four.”Brown is still waiting on his signature breakout game this season. He hasn’t surpassed 117 yards through any of the first 12 matchups, but he feels he’s due.And will let his production speak for him.”It’s not my job to criticize guys. Only for guys to get better,” Brown said. “[Roethlisberger’s] the general. He’s the captain. I’m not the captain. His method to his madness will only help us get better. You’re going to see us get better.”

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