On the Steelers: Brown is down after his drops against Raiders
League's No. 1 WR
October 31, 2013 12:36 AM
Steelers' Antonio Brown pulls in a pass during practice Wednesday at the South Side.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On the long return trip Sunday night from Oakland, Calif., the NFL's leading receiver walked to the back of the plane. Antonio Brown felt the need to say something to his quarterback, and this time it wasn't to implore him to throw more passes his way.
He wanted to apologize for two fourth-quarter plays he thinks he should have made in the Steelers' 21-18 loss against the Raiders.
One came on third-and-15 when he dropped what would have been a 24-yard reception at Oakland's 41 along the sideline. That forced a punt. The other ended the Steelers' next series when Brown, on third-and-3, seemed to catch a pass over the middle at the Oakland 20 for a first down only to have it ripped away from him by cornerback Tracy Porter for what was ruled an interception.
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"I came to him on the back of the plane and thought I could've done some things better to help us win," Brown said of his conversation with Ben Roethlisberger, adding that he was "less than ideal and below the line with [my] performance."
Pro Football Focus, which charts various statistics not kept by the NFL, lists Brown with just one dropped pass and ranks him third-best in the NFL in that category. Those two drops and a third on what would have been a 15-yard touchdown pass against the New York Jets don't add up to a high number, especially for a player who has caught six more passes than anyone else in the NFL and has more receptions after seven games than anyone in Steelers history.
Brown has 56. Hines Ward, who holds the single-season record with 112, had the previous seven-game high with 49 in 2004. His 630 yards puts him on pace to set a team record with 1,440.
Others, including usually sure-handed tight end Heath Miller, have dropped passes. There have been missed sacks, missed tackles and pass defenses. Halfbacks have missed holes.
Yet, coach Mike Tomlin mentioned one of Brown's errors at Oakland Tuesday in his news conference.
"We came away from that drive with no points because of an interception on third down that went through Antonio Brown's hands," Tomlin said.
Roethlisberger labeled those two plays Brown did not make in Oakland as unusual.
"The expectation is for him to always make those plays. So you don't get upset or frustrated when it doesn't happen ... He's made enough plays for us that it's not worth getting upset or frustrated over.
"He's our guy ... I feel that he is playing at a very high level. If you watch defenses, they obviously feel the same way because they are doing a lot of doubling and safeties are rolling his way."
Roethlisberger talked to Tomlin Monday about the timeout he "wasted" while waiting for a horse-collar penalty that was never called Sunday against the Raiders: "I'll take the blame for that incident. It won't happen again. He preferred me, in that situation with that much time, to save the three timeouts and take the  penalty yards."
McBriar overcomes injury
New Steelers punter Mat McBriar was enjoying a successful career with the Dallas Cowboys, having made Pro Bowls after the 2006 and 2010 season.
In 2011, his seventh season, he developed a case of drop foot in his left plant leg.
The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve with one game to left in that season, and they did not re-sign him. It turns out, a cyst in his left leg damaged a nerve that led to the drop foot. Surgery repaired it, and he played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, but was cut in March and had not played anywhere this season.
"I've just been patiently waiting for a shot," said McBriar, a native of Australia who lives in Dallas. "It was great to hear from the team on Monday."
McBriar, 34, and another unnamed punter tried out Tuesday at the team's facility. He said the nerve in his leg has fully healed, and his foot has returned to normal.
"I feel really good. I feel like I am in shape, kicking-wise."
Woodley knows the feeling
LaMarr Woodley can understand why Jarvis Jones might be struggling a little bit in Dick LeBeau's defense to the point he was demoted from his starting job at right outside linebacker
"All linebackers that come in, if a first-rounder or free agent, everyone struggles with this defense," Woodley said.
"This is a hard defense to learn, playing this 3-4 defense. We all struggled with it. I definitely know as a rookie I struggled with this defense."
Unlike Jones, who played outside linebacker in Georgia's 3-4 defense, Woodley played end in Michigan's 4-3 defense.
He did not start as a rookie -- indeed, Jones was the only outside linebacker to win a starting job in the 3-4 in 31 years here.
"I didn't understand the linebacker position," said Woodley, who has half the team's 10 sacks and ranks fifth on their career list with 57.
"It was just me studying the playbook and getting a better understanding of the whole position."
He said he has not tried to boost Jones' morale since the demotion came to light Tuesday.
"You have to motivate yourself. You have to do it yourself. That's how I feel about it. Nothing against Jarvis.
"We talk every day. His spirit is not low. His spirit is high.
"If his spirit was low, I'd talk to him, but his spirits are high."
Sean Spence, on the physically-unable-to-perform list, resumed practice Wednesday after missing last week because his right hand required surgery. He began practicing two weeks ago, and this is the final week he can practice before the Steelers must decide whether to keep him on PUP (where he no longer would be permitted to practice), put him on their 53-man roster or release him.
Those who did not practice Wednesday: Cornerback Curtis Brown (not injury related and not further revealed), offensive guard David DeCastro (ankle), nose tackle Steve McLendon (sick) and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (pinky finger).
Offensive guard Ramon Foster (concussion) was limited as were Miller and Roethlisberger, who were given part of practice off by Tomlin.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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