There has been so much negative press pouring out of Pittsburgh since the end of the season about Antonio Brown that nobody knows what to believe. It has become a he said she said kind of deal and the actual truth has probably been lost somewhere in the middle. I know we are all tired of speculating and are now forced to patiently wait for the pieces to fall where they may.
One of the initial reasons given credit for Brown's current off season of discontent was the mutually respectful relationship between HC Mike Tomlin and franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger, which reportedly made Brown feel under appreciated. Again, there is no way at this point to confirm the validity of any of these reports.
This actual line of thinking makes little sense if we are being honest, but I will admit it is an ingenious attempt to somehow identify Tomlin's and Ben's contributions in this whole mess. While the attempt to deflect blame is rather inventive, the working relationship between Tomlin and Ben isn't really that unique. Actually, it is consistent with the expected norm and paramount to team success.
Consider the remaining teams preparing for their playoff games this weekend and the HC/QB connection for each team. There is an obvious correlation between this relationship and team success on the field.
The Los Angeles Rams drafted Jared Goff with the first overall pick in the NFL draft three seasons ago and paired him with defensive minded HC Jeff Fisher. The union didn't result in a nurturing environment and was so unsuccessful that Goff was approaching bust status after his rookie season. Flash forward to his sophomore season. Fisher fired, Sean McVay hired, and suddenly Goff looks like a first-round pick and possible franchise QB. Closer relationship leads to better communication and increased production on the field.
Take the Kansas City Chiefs as an example of the importance a HC can have on the development of his young QB. Chiefs HC Andy Reid recognized the immense talents of QB Patrick Mahomes, this season's probable league MVP, during the off season and realized Mahomes could take the Chiefs to the next level of contention. Reid accepted the challenge of shielding his young QB through the expected trials and tribulations of a first year starting QB, and that decision has produced historic results.
Their success is a direct result of the level of trust achieved between the two men. Watch their interaction when the Chief's offense is off the field. Reid is sitting there next to Mahomes on the bench, discussing what his young QB is seeing on the field, and formulating a plan of attack that Mahomes feels comfortable with moving forward in the game.
I can't recall ever witnessing that level of nurturing between HC and QB before at the NFL level. I almost expect Reid to cradle Mahomes on his lap and pull out a nursing blanket. But you can't argue with the results. I am just surprised none of the Chiefs players seem to be jealous.
The QB has to be an extension of the HC on the field and a certain level of trust is imperative to their success on the field. In last season's Super Bowl victory, Philadelphia Eagles HC Doug Pederson had to have faith that backup QB Nick Foles could execute his innovative gameplan. He also had to trust Foles to convert the multiple fourth down attempts necessary to knockoff the defending champions. Foles made Pederson look like a genius and rewarded his faith in him.
I hope that Mike Tomlin and Big Ben do have the type of relationship suggested in that report, because it bodes well for the immediate future of the Steelers franchise.
Tomlin realizes one contributing factor to him never having a losing record is having a future HOF franchise QB leading his team every step of the way. An undeniable truth and the result of an successful relationship who's final chapter has yet to be written.
As Tomlin's and Ben's critics are all too happy to point out, neither man is perfect, but they are Steelers to the core and they always show up.