PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers trickled off the field in small groups, sweaty and a little spent from the first real day of football in nearly five months, even if it was just practice in shorts.
Antonio Brown lingered, as happens whenever the All-Pro wide receiver has his No. 84 jersey pulled on. He spent 20 minutes helping linebacker Sean Spence with a series of stretches and sit-ups.
Brown hardly looked like a guy ready to hold out for more money.
The three-time Pro Bowler insisted Tuesday he has no plans to get into a contract showdown with the Steelers even after questions surfaced during the offseason about whether he would skip training camp in hopes of landing a raise.
”I’ll be there at training camp so you guys get ready to see me,” Brown said with a smile.
Brown led the NFL with 129 receptions and 1,698 yards in 2014, both team records. He has three seasons remaining on the six-year, $43 million deal he signed in 2012, one that looks like an absolute bargain for one of the league’s most productive players.
All Brown has done over the last two years is catch 239 passes and 21 touchdowns while developing into one of the most dynamic open-field threats in the NFL. He is also the only receiver left on the Steelers from a group that included Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders.
Pittsburgh offered Brown an extension in 2012 before letting Wallace and then Sanders walk in free agency. It appears to be one of the wisest investments in the league considering Brown will make less in 2015 than Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings.
Brown consistently brushed aside the idea that he’s underpaid, stressing the business-side of his career is up to his agent Drew Rosenhaus.
”This organization has been nothing but first class to me, believing in my talent and my skills since I got here,” said Brown, taken in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. ”And I’m just here to pay them back with my work ethic.”
That has never been a question for Brown, who wore his game pants during the first two hours of spring practice, a habit he’s carried with him throughout his career.
”This is a community that I love,” Brown said. ”My kids go to school here and I want to keep a good reputation. Money is not important to me. I’ve got enough. The organization has extremely blessed me. I’m here to play football and that’s what I want to be known as.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger laughed at the idea of Brown – a notorious workaholic – missing a chance to work on his craft.
”He doesn’t want … his teammates to think that he doesn’t want to be here,” Roethlisberger said. ”Because he wants to be here for us. That’s what makes him special. We all believe that that is who he is.”
Entering the middle of his prime while coming off a year in which the Steelers won the AFC North and finished second in total offense, the only numbers Brown is focused on are 2015, not the ones on his contract.
”Every year I’ve got something to prove,” he said. ”I’ve got guys here wanting to take my spots. I’ve got guys around the league trying to be better than me. I’ve got to stay hungry.”
Not that testing Pittsburgh’s front office works anyway. The Steelers never re-negotiate contracts with multiple years on them for players other than their quarterbacks, and they even changed that tactic when they decided to not re-sign Roethlisberger until this spring when he had just season to go.
NOTES: RB Le’Veon Bell said he doesn’t know when the NFL will hear the appeal of his three-game suspension following his arrest on marijuana and DUI charges last August. Bell added he is close to 100 percent after missing Pittsburgh’s playoff loss to Baltimore with a hyperextended knee in January. … S Mike Mitchell underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn groin that limited him for much of 2014. Mitchell there is still occasional pain but he expects it to dissipate going forward.
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