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Can Brown Rebound? Steelers Had Better Hope So

Antonio Brown's tweets, threats and tantrums wouldn’t seem to matter nearly as much if he'd caught more than 18 passes for a relatively measly 160 yards through the first two games.

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It’s way too early for a must-win game in September –– it’s December they remember in the NFL –– but it isn’t too soon for the Steelers to at least resemble a team that has the potential to contend if not one that’s an actual contender.

The only encouraging development to date is Cam Heyward insisting the defense has to be better on Monday night at Tampa Bay than it was last Sunday afternoon against Kansas City.

“We can’t play any worse,” Heyward maintained.​

Heyward chuckled upon delivering that in-depth analysis, but given the similarities between the Buccaneers and the Chiefs in terms of combustibility on offense, it’s possible the Steelers’ defense will be just as bad.

So far the proposed solutions to the Ryan Shazier dilemma –– the signing of Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett, the drafting of Terrell Edmunds and the experimentation with playing seven defensive backs at a time –– haven’t materialized as actual answers.

That’s disappointing.

And an offense that appeared on paper as if it might be capable of compensating for a defense that might wind up being less than championship caliber, has instead regressed.

That’s disconcerting.

Throw in the kicker suddenly having forgotten how to make field goals and there’s cause for concern, if not panic.

It’ll be time to actually panic if the offense doesn't come around.​

Chris Boswell will inevitably get his kicks again and the defense, even if it improves, is only going to get so much better. The Steelers ought to have a handle on what they can realistically expect from those two phases by now.

But the offense is much less of a sure thing.

It was supposed to be lights out, but that was before the All-Pro running back decided to ride Jet Skis and drop singles rather than actually show up and run to daylight.

And that was before the All-Pro wide receiver started acting in a manner that necessitated he apologize for his behavior on a weekly basis.

Antonio Brown was at that again Thursday, the result of his having decided not to show up for work on Monday after melting down on the sideline on Sunday.

Brown insisted the former was understandable due to a personal matter and denied the latter, but he also acknowledged he’s been a distraction.

“Obviously, it’s a distraction when you’re writing guys on Twitter and my teammates gotta answer about it,” Brown said.

The Steelers’ problem relative to Brown has been more about production than distraction.

He’s always been something of a circus performer, and was long before the Steelers started to become a team people perceive as the next coming of Ringling Bros.

But all the tweets, threats and tantrums, all the insufferable exasperation wouldn’t seem to matter nearly as much if Brown had caught more than 18 passes on 33 targets for a relatively measly 160 yards through the first two games.

Fix that and the rest has a chance – a chance – to fall into place.

Monday night at Tampa wouldn’t be too soon to at least get Brown straightened out.

“We gotta find a way to win,” he acknowledged. “Monday night is another opportunity to erase the doubt and erase the misfortunate, the thoughts about us as a team.”

The Steelers are going to run out of those sooner rather than later.  

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