Cancer awareness close to Antonio Brown's heart

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Antonio Brown has become a leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers in his third season in the league.

Football fans have been seeing pink all month in the NFL. Players and coaches are showing their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing the cause's signature shade on their feet, hands, heads and sleeves.

A few players wear it on their hearts, as well. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, 24, is one of them. Brown, who has partnered with Dick's Sporting Goods for its "Sport Your Support" campaign, knows firsthand the pain caused by breast cancer. His aunt, with whom he's very close, fought the disease several years ago.

"She lost her hair and dealt with some other issues," Brown explained. "So I definitely appreciate this month to raise awareness for those who went through the disease and those who are dealing with it right now."

Brown's aunt -- whom he preferred not to name -- had a mastectomy and is a proud survivor and an inspiration to her nephew. As he navigates his third season in the NFL, he is enjoying opportunities to grow as a player and a person.

"It's all about balance," he said. "You wanna be just as good on the field as you [are] off of it. Raising awareness for people who are experiencing the unfortunate situation of dealing with breast cancer, you wanna help support those people. Doing things like this is what it's all about."

Brown is helping spread the word by promoting the "Endless Ribbon" campaign going on all month on the Dick's Facebook page and sending fans to the store's official website, where they can purchase the pink gear players have been wearing every Sunday.

"I'm sure a lot of guys like wearing pink just to look good, but we also know wearing pink in the month of October helps support people," he said. "You wanna keep it as comfortable as possible but coordinate some pink in there and make it look good."

Brown and the Steelers got their first road win Sunday night, defeating the Bengals 24-17. Their modest 3-3 record has them in the hunt in the AFC, where the Texans, Ravens and Patriots are the only three squads with winning records.

"[This season has been] inconsistent," Brown said a few days before Sunday's game. "We gotta be better as a team, better on the whole. We have more opportunities, though; we're not down and out yet. We still have plenty of big games."

In his sophomore campaign, Brown scored a trip to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner and was voted the Steelers' most valuable player. This year, he says he has matured and is expected to do more than just catch passes.

"I feel like I'm a leader now more than I've ever been," he explained. "Guys look to me to be calm and to just be there with a positive mindset and attitude for our team."

Brown says his positivity isn't always matched by fantasy football owners.

"I definitely hear from fantasy owners all the time," he laughed. "Lotta people letting me know they're waiting for me to be productive, waiting for me to deliver some big-time numbers."

Brown caught seven passes for 96 yards Sunday and ran for 13 more in the win. Although he's been targeted heavily in the Steelers' first six games, he has found the end zone only once. He's hoping to get some more touchdowns to appease fans who drafted him.

"Those who drafted me, I definitely appreciate it. I'm ready and willing to deliver some big points," he promised.

He'll get another chance to do just that Sunday when the Steelers take on the Redskins in Pittsburgh.

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