ALAMEDA (CBS SF/AP) — Former Pittsburgh star Antonio Brown couldn’t help himself, he felt compelled to take a shot at the Steelers during his introductory news conference with the Oakland Raiders.
Brown, who demanded a trade after a falling out with team management and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was sent to Oakland in a deal that sent a third and a fifth-round draft pick to the Steelers.
“To any kid out there from Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh will always be my family, those guys gave me a chance when I was a 21-year-old kid,” Brown said. “Obviously, people listen to things that are being said and written, but at the end of the day, it’s all about how you make people feel. I think I made people feel really great and really inspired, the way they watched me go to work. The way they watched me play. I know the Steeler Nation is having a bad day today.”
The Raiders gave Brown a new three-year contract worth just over $54 million with $30.125 million guaranteed. He gives the Raiders a high-profile addition for second-year coach Jon Gruden after trading away two of the team’s biggest stars last year in edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Amari Cooper.
“I bring accountability,” said Brown as to how he can help change the atmosphere in an organization that has fallen on hard times. “I bring actions. Not what I say, but what I do. How I approach things. Holding guys accountable in the receivers room.”
Brown credited his grandmother with helping develop the work ethic he is known for.
“It comes from my grandma,” he told reporters. “From my family, never being content. I’ve always been hungry. No matter what stage you get in life, you always gotta progress and grow. No matter what I always do, it’s always a fresh slate, a restart and refocus and never being content. Just always getting better each day.”
He also becomes quarterback Derek Carr’s biggest offensive weapon and gives the team a legitimate star before they move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
“We don’t have to adjust anything with this guy,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “This is not about comparing receivers today (Cooper and Brown). We want to continue to improve this football team. We don’t want to have a good receiving corp, I want to have the best receiving corp in football. To be the best, you have to have the best. In my opinion we’ve acquired the best receiver in football.”
Brown said Gruden’s presence on the Raiders sideline was why he chose to come to Oakland.
“Mr. Gruden played everything in my decision to come here,” he said. “He’s an offensive guru. You get excited just talking with him. He has much knowledge of the game…He knows what it takes.”
As for his goals, Brown has set his eyes on the records of another Bay Area legend — Jerry Rice.
“My goal is to catch Jerry Rice,” he said. “Playing with a guy like Coach Gruden. Obviously, he knows what it takes to keep me upright and fresh. Keep me out there for a long time so it’s a tremendous challenge. It’s a challenge every year to prove my love for the game. I’m just taking it one year at time…I’m here to prove who I am and what I stand for and not just my words, but my actions.”
Brown is no stranger to drawing headlines for both his prolific on-field production and his off-the-field antics, including livestreaming from the locker room after a playoff win over Kansas City in January 2017 and getting pulled over for doing 100 mph in the northern Pittsburgh suburbs last fall.
The sometimes tumultuous relationship between the only player in NFL history with six straight 100-catch seasons and the franchise that made him the highest-paid player at his position in the spring of 2017 reached a breaking point in late December.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin benched Brown during the regular-season finale against Cincinnati after the wide receiver went radio silent in the final 48 hours before the game. Brown arrived in a fur coat, hung out for a half and then disappeared from view until well after his teammates had cleaned out their lockers following a 9-6-1 finish that left Pittsburgh on the outside of the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
When Brown did resurface, he began engaging in a series of increasingly antagonistic acts designed to expedite his departure.
He went on Instagram with former Steelers linebacker James Harrison during Tomlin’s season wrap-up press conference. He decried Roethlisberger’s “owner’s mentality” and chastised Tomlin for disciplining him in Week 17, no matter that Tomlin and the rest of the organization had spent years downplaying Brown’s off-the-field eccentricities.
Brown officially requested a trade last month, but not before photo-shopping his familiar No. 84 onto a San Francisco 49ers jersey or using his hyperactive social media feeds to indicate not only his displeasure with the Steelers but also his interest in signing a new deal with whomever should acquire his services.
Even with his benching in the finale, Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a franchise-record and NFL-high 15 touchdowns. His last performance in a Pittsburgh uniform might have been one of his best, a 14-reception, 185-yard, two-touchdown masterpiece in a road loss to New Orleans.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.