The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a hot topic this off-season as anonymous comments brought about talk of divisions, other than the confluence, in the city of three rivers.
Several players have been interrogated by the media, attempting to dig even more dirt out of an already shallow fracture. Today, Antonio Brown joined Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco on 98.7 ESPN New York to answer the same list of question every Steelers player has entertained until this point.
Most of Brown's answers fell into the generic, cookie-cutter category; but one answer stuck out above all the rest, and it was regarding Mike Wallace, who becomes an unrestricted free-agent on March 12th when his contract expires.
"(There was) some bit of awkwardness. You know, a guy who has been there longer than I and definitely wanting a deal, but you gotta not dwell on that and that kind of situation prohibits bad blood to a team where guys are there for themselves, and not buy into the team aspects and could definitely cause a drama within a team."
When a team is defending unidentified fractures in its team chemistry from 2012, the situation between Brown and Wallace could have been a contributing fissure, if not a gaping chasm on offense.
Said-awkwardness was admitted in response to a pointed question about Brown receiving a five-year contract extension while Wallace was refusing to sign his RFA tender after refusing any alleged offers he received from the team. It is safe to assume the team's front office had a budget plan in place. Once Wallace declined what the Steelers were prepared to offer him, they assumed they would be unable to re-sign him the following year in free-agency.
When a team is about to lose its top receiver from the last three years, they begin looking at the guys below him on the depth chart. Brown, in his second season as a pro, turned in over a thousand yards receiving and also as a kick returner, after beginning the season as a possible slot receiver option and special teams asset.
Brown was scheduled to become an RFA himself in 2013 until he signed his new contract. He would have joined Emmanuel Sanders, who has not received an extension from the team yet and is expected to receive a tender worth $1.323 million. The tender Wallace refused to sign in 2012 was worth $2.742 million.
The trio of Wallace, Brown and Sanders who once deemed themselves the young money crew are growing up, and apart. Perhaps animosity led to focus lapses for both players last season, although even Brown admits - in his own way - players can never worry about other players when it comes to the business side of football; they can only focus on themselves and their contributions to the team concept, or it can destroy a brotherhood for good.
With the 2012 season now ancient history and Wallace expected to move on toward "greener" pastures, it will be on Brown to prove he was worth the team's relationship with Wallace.