While a lot of the drama that surrounds the Pittsburgh Steelers is of their own making, it would be fair to say that the press isn't averse to helping create some when it suits their purpose.
After Ed Bouchette posted a tweet about the status of Antonio Brown during practice on Monday, the Steelers wide receiver took exception to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter’s remark. With a tweet of his own in reply, that should have been the end of the matter, but it would appear that some of the local beat writers aren’t quite ready to let it go that easily.
Bro seriously have some respect you making shit up clown https://t.co/SxgHHee7KV— Antonio Brown (@AB84) August 13, 2018
By Tuesday, it turned out Bouchette had given his response to Brown’s post during a radio segment, and one of his colleagues in the press room seemed to want AB disciplined for daring to speak out about a report both Mike Tomlin and No. 84 had denied. Radio host and TribLive reporter Mark Madden even had some choice words of his own for Brown as well, while fellow TribLive writer Tim Benz was also less than impressed.
Appearing as a guest on 93.7 The Fan on the Cook and Poni Show, Bouchette gave his reply to Brown’s remark.
“I always thought he was a decent guy and I’m not changing my opinion on that, but he has become more of a diva over the years. I don’t think that is a secret.”
Given how many fans took exception to the perceived lack of professionalism Brown had shown in the way he addressed his complaint about Bouchette’s tweet, it seems only fair to question the wisdom of Bouchette responding the way he did live on air.
It would also be fair to wonder what Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network hoped to achieve when she questioned Mike Tomlin about his opinion on the matter and how he planned to address it with the player. At a point in the press conference when Tomlin was enjoying reminiscing about games he had been involved with at Green Bay, Kinkhabwala seized the opportunity to make things awkward.
“The longest tenured member of our group, one of the most respected members of our group, was called a clown by Antonio Brown. Have you spoken to him at all, do you have any plans to talk to him about that?”
Considering Tomlin is hardly a prolific user of social media, it was no surprise to discover it was all news to him.
“I don’t know anything about that, so I’m not in position to speculate or to comment, sorry.”
But his response didn’t seem to sit well with the NFL Network reporter.
“Okay, well if I tell you, that he publically called him it”
Cutting Kinkhabwala short, Tomlin continued.
“Then I’ll address it privately, I won't address it in this setting, I don't believe that that’s appropriate. When I don’t have a lot of details regarding it, I’m just not going to talk about whatever it is you are referring to in this setting. I’ll address it at a later time, after I get an opportunity to gather information if necessary, but I won't address it in this setting because you’re my only source, so that not appropriate from my perspective, respectfully.”
With the atmosphere in the room clearly deflated, the press conference ended, but it's hard to understand how broaching this subject in public was appropriate. If Brown should have known better than to air his complaint with Bouchette on social media, the more experienced media members were equally out of line, if not more so. A conversation that should have occurred behind closed doors was playing out for all to see.
It's unclear whether Kinkhabwala is looking for a public apology from Brown, or for the Steelers to punish him in some way, but once Tomlin knows all the facts, it's hard to imagine him saying anything of consequence to his wideout. When Brown complained that he felt persecuted by the press and didn't feel he could express himself without criticism, many struggled to understand what his problem was. Given the events of the past few days, I completely see his point.