PITTSBURGH (AP) — The memory has never really gone away. It's still in the back of Antonio Brown's mind, gnawing at him during the long workouts, the ones he doesn't talk about and his teammates only mention in somewhat reverent tones.
Six rounds. Nearly 200 players. How was it possible for 194 other players to be taken ahead of him in the 2010 NFL Draft? Even now, in the midst of the breakout season he always believed would come, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver doesn't want to think about it.
"It just stirs up more difficult thoughts," Brown said.
More pleasant ones lay ahead for a player having perhaps the finest year by a wide receiver in the 81-year history of the franchise.
With two weeks to go in the season, already has 95 receptions. He needs 18 more to break Hines Ward's club record of 112 set in 2002. If Brown tops 92 yards receiving on Sunday against Green Bay (7-6-1) — a number he's already reached five times this season — he'll smash Yancey Thigpen's mark of 1,398 yards receiving from 1997.
There's even an outside chance that Brown could finish the year with more catches than any player in the NFL, something no Steeler has ever done. All this from a 5-foot-10, 186-pound, tightly wound specimen who hardly looks like what passes for the prototype wide receiver these days.
Brown isn't a little guy lining up in the slot against linebackers and safeties. He's split wide just like the Calvin Johnsons, A.J. Greens and Dez Bryants of the world. He faces the other team's top cornerback most weeks and wins more battles than he loses. And it's not close.
He does it with a tenacity that belies his size, one he keeps well hidden behind a megawatt smile and the ballroom-ready dance moves Brown unveils during touchdown celebrations, nine and counting so far this fall.
The secret is what Brown does in secret. Always one of the last to leave the practice field, Brown sometimes wears game pants even during walkthroughs because that's what he'll be wearing on Sundays. He doesn't like talking about what happens when he's on his own, saying simply "sometimes the unseen is always better (kept that way)."
In that way, Brown isn't much different than another lightly regarded prospect who seemingly willed his way to the top of his profession: former Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
At first the comparison between the hulking Harrison and the sliver of lightning that is Brown is jarring. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin thinks maybe it shouldn't be.
"He's got ridiculous work ethic," Tomlin said. "I think everyone respects that and it's very evident. He's in great shape over the course of a 12-month calendar. He's always working his body and working his craft."