Sep 16, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs with the ball after making a catch during the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers: Does Antonio Brown have a legitimate complaint?

After two losses to start the season, it looks like it is panic time in Steelers nation as everyone from fans to players seems very unhappy with the early performance of the black-and-gold.

Perhaps the person that’s the irritated with the start to the season appears to be Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who according to the Post Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, got into a heated exchange with offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the Steelers Monday night loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs after a pass reception against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Tennessee Titans won 16-9. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Exchanges like this happen all of the time among competitive athletes, but the question is does Brown have a solid gripe here?

Against the Bengals, Brown was targeted nine times, with six of those coming in the second half after the reported confrontation, and led the Steelers with six receptions.

On the surface it looks like just another egotistical receiver wanting the football more as through two games Brown is on pace to set a career-high with 88 catches, having been targeted 16 times so far by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Only Emmanuel Sanders (22) has been targeted more, but the problem is that Jerricho Cotchery has been targeted the same amount of times as Brown.

One thing is clear and that is Brown has to play better. As the No. 1 receiver, Brown isn’t getting open enough as he is drawing the most attention.

His performance further proves what I have said all along and that’s the fact that he is a good No. 2 receiver, but not a No. 1. It also should put some doubt in the fact that the Steelers did the right thing by giving Brown the money before last season instead of Mike Wallace.

However the problem isn’t all Brown as it is the Steelers offense in general.

One issue is personnel. Why is Cotchery running an end around and not Brown?

I like what Cotchery brings to the team as a veteran receiver, but Haley isn’t using his personnel correctly. Cotchery is a guy who can make plays on third down, which is great, but those are the only situations where he should set foot on the field, especially when you have a potential weapon like rookie Markus Wheaton barely stepping foot on the field.

All anyone did was rave about Wheaton in camp. Why isn’t he getting many reps? His skill set alone and his ability to stretch the field should help free up the coverage for both Brown and Sanders. Cotchery just doesn’t do that.

But the main issue is the fact the Steelers offense just stinks. They aren’t on the field enough for Brown to get many more balls thrown his way.

It’s hard for Brown to get many more catches when you are converting on third down only 25 percent of the time. That’s just atrocious and if that doesn’t get fixed, Brown will continue to be unhappy.

If Brown wants the ball more, he has to earn it. That means stepping up and making plays in big moments, especially on third down to help keep drives alive, like a true No. 1 should.

I don’t know if he has that in him though as I have always felt that he is more of a complementary piece than a guy who can take over a football game. However, he is likely the best option that Roethlisberger has right now so it makes sense to feed him the ball as often as possible.

But if the Steelers other problems (protecting the quarterback, running the football, converting on third down, etc.) don’t get fixed soon, it’s not going to make much of a difference anyway.

Tags: Antonio Brown Pittsburgh Steelers Todd Haley

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