While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers drama is great for business if you work in the world of sports media, it would also be fair to say that some reporters enjoy it a little bit more than most. For those who make their money from the hot take market, the Steelers turmoil with Antonio Brown has been a gift. Regardless of their agenda, there is something for everyone in this fiasco.
For the Mike Tomlin does not have his team buttoned up crowd, this latest drama fits their narrative perfectly. Those who think Ben Roethlisberger is a terrible leader and teammate have heard more than enough to be able to point the finger of blame his way. And for the AB can do no wrong collective, it is anyone’s fault but Brown’s.
When speaking to Peter King during a podcast interview released on Thursday, a man who has done his utmost to interject himself into the Steelers saga with Brown as of late, Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network took the blame game to a whole new level when she suggested that Steelers president Art Rooney II was actually the man who deserved much of the cristcm for the team’s problems.
Citing an unnamed source high up in the organization, Kinkhabwala also indicated there was a least one member of senior management who had issues with Rooney’s leadership.
“For someone to even be allowed to behave that way, for such behaviour to be covered up for a week, that goes to the top of the organisation. I’m not only talking about the head coach Mike Tomlin, but who’s Mike Tomlin’s boss? This is a very, very, very high-level member of the Steelers organization. This is about as high as you can get, said to me, and this is an exact quote, ‘I don’t mean to get all Godfather on you, but the fish rots from the head’. “
“So the implication there was, Art Rooney is one of the most admirable gentlemen in the NFL. He really, truly is a patient, prudent, moderate man. He is not prone to fits of impulse. He’s never going to do anything to embarrass the organization. But at some point, he’s the man in charge. At some point, this club is inextricably connected to his family name. At any point over the course of the last few years, he could have said enough. He’s the guy who oversees Mike Tomlin, and can say “ok you know what when Antonio Brown was Facebook living in the Kansas city locker room, and broadcast your words out to the world before we’d even allowed the media in, when Antonio Brown was embarrassing us, that needs to be shut down”.”
“He didn’t, the Steelers gave Antonio brown the richest contract in the history of the NFL for a wide receiver. Art Rooney at any point could have said to Mike Tomlin “I don’t like your players tweeting about potential second-round opponents before they’ve even met their first-round opponents. I don’t like your players screaming into a locker room prior to a game. I don’t like your players not showing up for a walk through without censure’. Any time, that could have come from the very upper echelon of the organisation.”
In an interview that would last about 20 minutes, Kinkhabwala would go on to note a lack of leadership in the locker room, question the actions of Roethlisberger and list a number of Brown’s offield issues. Ultimately highlighting a fractured locker room split by an apparent power struggle between quarterback and receiver.
“Mike Tomlin’s locker room is very, very, very upset about what this season devolved into. That the disfunction and distraction was allowed to fester in such a way that certain athletes were, their behavior was repeatedly covered up and therefore they were given license to continue behaving that way. I can tell you from multiple people, multiple people in that locker room told me how disruptive and disheartening it was to have Ben Roethlisberger go on the radio weekly and call out some teammate or another.”
Strangely, while Kinkhabwala was more than willing to call out most of the organization, Brown was one of the few that eventually had her sympathy.
“The more you recognize the culpability around Antonio, and you know I’m a soft heart, I really am, it feels like Antonio’s the guy thats getting all the blame here, and I hope that they can figure it out.”
For many observers, the idea that a 30-year-old man is not responsible for his own actions is absurd and there will be a lot of fans who will struggle with the idea of seeing Brown as a victim.