"Obviously, it's a big game. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a follow-type corner," Brown said Wednesday. "Wherever I line up, he's gonna be there, and I'm just excited about the opportunity."
By all accounts, Butler is expected to match up with Pittsburgh's All-Pro wideout almost exclusively during the AFC Championship Game. During a season riddled with obnoxious "Will Player X shadow Player Y?" debates, this comes closer than most.
"Most definitely I respect that guy," Butler said of Brown, per the Boston Herald. "Great player obviously, and (I) just love to compete and he loves to compete also."
That competition extended beyond the field this season, with Brown and Butler tangling in one of the better Papa John's ads in recent memory:
They won't operate as on-camera pals come Sunday, though, with Butler shifting into Patriots Speak 101 when asked if they formed a friendship on set.
"It's the playoffs," Butler said. "We've got to be ready to go, everybody. It is what it is."
"Malcolm is a great competitor. He takes this as a big challenge," Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower said Wednesday. "We obviously know what Antonio Brown is. He's arguably the best wide receiver in the league. We know what kind of matchup threat he poses. We expect Malcolm to take advantage of that, and I know he's ready to rise up to that challenge."