Antonio Brown responds to critic: 'Trade me'

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Things are getting testy in the Steel City.

Fresh off another disappointing Sunday, a former Steelers employee took to Twitter to downplay -- the kids call it throwing shade on -- the contributions of Antonio Brown. The star receiver and Madden NFL 19 cover athlete didn't take too kindly to the former staffer's words.

The Steelers had no comment on Brown's tweet, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

For the record, Brown has recorded nine receptions in each of the Steelers' first two games for a total of 160 yards and one touchdown. The premier volume receiver in the NFL has logged 100-plus-reception seasons in each of the last five years, breaking 1,200 yards and eight or more touchdowns in every campaign.

He was held scoreless in a 42-37 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.

If we're going to break down the former team employee's point, we must acknowledge Ben Roethlisberger's career-long home-road splits (he's much better at home than he is away from it), and his three interceptions thrown in the season-opening tie with Cleveland. No one is free of fault in this world, including Roethlisberger, even if he will land in Canton one day. He obviously has played a huge part in Brown's success, but this is a mutual partnership -- not one carrying the load for the other.

But this isn't the first time someone who spent years inside the organization has made a point about Pittsburgh's drive to make the situation as ideal as possible for Brown. Consider this from Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders, with whom I spoke a couple of weeks ago:

"Looking back at Pittsburgh, it was Antonio [Brown's] destiny to be over there by himself and with no help," Sanders told me about his time with the Steelers. "Because you want to talk about a guy, man, they feed him the ball. Being the No. 2 receiver over there is not fun at times."

Including all of the 2016, 2017 and the first two weeks of 2018, Brown has been targeted 350 times, more than any other receiver in football, per Next Gen Stats. Houston's DeAndre Hopkins is three targets shy of Brown, with 37 less receptions. Only seven receivers in the NFL have broken 300 targets in that span, and of that group, only Michael Thomas (74.7 percent) and Larry Fitzgerald (69.3 percent) have caught a higher percentage of their targets.

And as it often goes in paradise that is suddenly no more, those in black and gold aren't afraid to point fingers when troubles arise. Just ask Todd Haley.

Last season, it was Brown's early sideline tantrum that followed Facebook Live locker room incident during the playoffs. In between was Martavis Bryant clapping back at a fan via social media over the ascension of then-rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster. This year, it's Le'Veon Bell's absence and emoji tweeting, his teammates inching closer toward a full dragging of the running back via local media, and now this.

If any team were to benefit from shutting down social media, it would be the Steelers.

But the true panic that will arise from this -- might the Steelers trade AB?! -- is unfounded. There's little reason to think Pittsburgh would consider dealing Brown, under team control through 2021, especially after the team just opened the bank vault for him before the 2017 season. Oh, and he's also the best receiver in the league.

This is really just a case of Brown calling a critic's bluff as Steeler Nation panics without a win in its pocket after just two weeks. Even the view from a perch near the top of the mountain can become cloudy if you stay there long enough.

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