Good friends Brown, Beckham look to one-up another Sunday
PITTSBURGH (AP) They are millionaires, good friends, arguably the best in the world at their chosen profession and hardly apologetic for their ''look at me'' exuberance.
Get your popcorn ready - and while you're at it your excessive celebration flags, meme-generators and unmarried kicking nets, too - for Antonio Brown versus Odell Beckham Jr.
The two superstar wide receivers will be in the same stadium for the first time on Sunday when Beckham and the streaking New York Giants (8-3) visit Heinz Field to take on Brown and the resilient Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5). And yes, while the final score is important, the drive to put up the gaudier numbers is very real.
''Ultimately I would like to do better than him,'' Beckham said. ''But if he does better and we win, that's a battle that I may have lost one but I won the other.''
Of course, finding a way to win both would be preferable for two players whose competitiveness has driven them to the NFL's elite even if the paths they took to get there couldn't be more different.
Brown is an overachiever, a former sixth-round pick whose relentless work ethic transformed him into one of the league's most productive players. The 28-year-old became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 600 career receptions when he crossed the plateau against Cleveland last month. He backed it up by scoring a career-high three touchdowns on Thanksgiving against Indianapolis and - in typical fashion - drew another in an increasingly long list of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for his choreographed dance with running back Le'Veon Bell.
Beckham entered the league with higher expectations as the 12th overall selection in the 2014 draft and has somehow exceeded them. He's spent the last two-plus seasons generating GIF-able catch after GIF-able catch in New York, at least when he's not ripping off his helmet to show off his shock of blonde hair , tossing around whatever happens to be within arm's reach when he's frustrated or jousting with nemesis Josh Norman .
Are they divas? Maybe. Do they care? Not really.
''We don't listen to media people,'' Brown said. ''We are solely consumed with being our best selves and representing ourselves at a high level and making plays and helping our team win in the way we desire to do it.''
The more spectacular, the better. They don't take much time to study most of their peers but keep close tabs on each other during the season, with Brown playing the role of mentor.
''I talk to him, critique him,'' Brown said.
And he may be one of the few who can get away with it. The normally brash Beckham turns reflective when talking about Brown. The two hooked up last spring while Brown was filming ''Dancing With The Stars'' and also spent time together in Brown's native Miami.
''He kind of just showed me the ropes,'' Beckham said. ''He was showing me pretty much everything of what he does. You take that and you put it into your own agenda and schedule. You kind of just go with it from there.''
Statistically at least, Brown has the upper hand at the moment. His 82 receptions lead the league and his 10 touchdowns are tied with Tampa Bay's Mike Evans for the NFL high. Beckham isn't far behind in catches (65) or touchdowns (eight) and the Giants are starting to find new ways to get him the ball. He returned four punts last week in Cleveland, though he's got some work to do to catch Brown's four career punt returns for scores.
That's fine by Beckham. He figures he's borrowed so much from Brown as a receiver that mimicking him as a returner is just the next step.
''I watch a lot of film on him and probably stole a lot of stuff from him to make it my own,'' Beckham said.
The fact Brown allowed Beckham into his tightly guarded inner circle is a victory in and of itself. Brown is notoriously vague when pressed about his workout regimen, though Brown's ever active social media accounts drop hints at countless off-the-field training sessions and teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey relayed a story about walking out of dinner with Brown last year and Brown asking him if he wanted to go to the gym. It was well after 10 p.m.
And maybe that's why Brown and Beckham remain so intent on squeezing as much joy out of their accomplishments.
''I don't think people really take in what you sacrifice each and every day to go out there and play for just 60 minutes,'' Beckham said. ''That's really all you get and you don't even get that. Like to enjoy it and have fun.''
What's on the line for Brown and Beckham Sunday besides the chance for their teams to continue to build some playoff momentum? Pride. Bragging rights, oh, and one more thing.
''Probably some dance moves,'' Brown said. ''That's about it.''
Because of course.
NOTES: Heyward-Bey (foot) and RB DeAngelo Williams (knee) are out for the Steelers. ... S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion), DE Owa Odighizuwa (knee) and G Justin Pugh (knee) are out for New York.
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