Antonio Brown walked into the Steelers' locker room last week and almost couldn't believe what he saw — so many new teammates here, so many longtime teammates gone.
But Brown also couldn't believe all he has heard since the Steelers last played four months ago.
Namely, remarks by former Steelers safety Ryan Clark that some Steelers use marijuana to relieve pain and reduce stress. While marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, it remains on the NFL's banned substance list.
Brown believes negatively toned comments like Clark's need to be banned from that under-transformation locker room, too.
“When you see things like that, it shows you how guys feel when they're not part of the team anymore,” Brown said Sunday of Clark, who has since signed with the Redskins. “It's a form of bitterness or taking a shot at the team because you're not there anymore.”
Clark's remarks — and those a year ago made by players alluding to the poor conditioning of others — are exactly what the Steelers must eliminate following successive 8-8 seasons, Brown said.
“That's the type of things we need to get better at. When you see stuff like that happen repeatedly year after year — from a guy calling LaMarr Woodley out, from a guy that's calling the team out for illegal uses of a substance — it just shows the lack of team camaraderie we had in the locker room, the lack of togetherness,” Brown said.
“When you see people taking shots who were on the same team and wearing the same jerseys, that's a sign of not having that team camaraderie. That's something we need to get back, something we haven't had for the past two years.”
Clark is convinced smoking pot kept some players from becoming addicted to painkillers, and he said he wasn't being critical of his former teammates. Still, a disappointed Brown felt Clark's talk served no purpose other than to boost Clark's post-football career as an NFL analyst.
“He's getting into his career as a reporter and trying to get those things in the works,” Brown said. “I don't think he meant any harm taking those shots to players as individuals, I just think he was trying to make pointers and make himself sound smart on ESPN.”
Brown isn't convinced there was any widespread team discord in 2012 and 2013, though he understands that specific reason are always sought when a team falls off.
But he wants to see the Steelers go back to being the type of team they were during their 12-4 seasons in 2010 and 2011, when team chemistry was a priority and criticism of others wasn't tolerated by longtime team leaders.
“Our business is winning ... and I think we've definitely got to get better in that area,” Brown said. “We've kind of got a new team and a new environment, and I'm excited to get the draftees in and get everybody together so we can get rolling.”
Brown, currently taking part in voluntary team workouts on the South Side, attended a private party Sunday at the Oakdale home of the Aaron Kellington family. Kellington was the local winner of the Panini NFL player of the day promotion in which the trading card company rewards one of its collectors with a star player's visit.