The Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 underachieving season may be finished, but the insanity continues. Fresh off a disappointing season filled with drama, both on and off the field, the off season turmoil has been kicked up a notch by superstar WR Antonio Brown.
Unless you have been imprisoned somewhere without access to electronic devices or simply stepped away from all things Steelers for a few days for the sake of your sanity, you are already aware of the latest AB saga. Mike Tomlin has concluded his season ending press conference and there are obviously many more questions that still need answered.
AB has even granted former Steelers great James Harrison, himself a man who can't seem to decide if he wants to completely destroy his Steelers legacy or not, an exclusive rights interview to presumably tell his side of the story. That should prove to be quite the spectacle.
I admit I have been taken aback a little by all this turn of events, but I really shouldn't have been. We all know AB is about his brand. The brand comes first. Statistics matter to Mr. Brown, because statistics create prestige and status, which is good for business. Business is booming and AB will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.
So how does Brown feel about all this predominantly negative press surrounding him at the moment? He couldn't be happier. His mug is plastered on every sports show and website possible around the country. He is the talk of the sports universe at the moment. He is taking a page out of the WWE handbook. Make sure they all love you or hate you, doesn't really matter, just make sure they all know who you are. Be anything but irrelevant. Any press is better than no press at all.
Brown knows it doesn't matter what you do, even if it's negative or selfish, because if you put the right spin on it some members of society will inevitably support you. You may even be able to convince the intellectually challenged that you are somehow actually the victim in this whole mess of your own creating.
There is always two sides to every story and we know precious little about what has truly taken place between all parties involved. But based on what we do know I think some truths have become evident in this Steelers vs. AB standoff.
Brown sees the handwriting on the wall, and it's not good for business. Brown needs to continue to put up these video game numbers in his pursuit of all time great Jerry Rice and his own quest for immortality. This season revealed two large obstacles in his pursuit if he stays in Pittsburgh: Big Ben Roethlisberger's career winding down and JuJu Smit-Schuster's rapid ascension to stardom.
Ben Roethlisberger is still playing at, or near, the top of his game, and he may very well remain there for the near future, but nobody knows how long that may be or when he may decide to ride off into the sunset after a HOF career. One of Ben's greatest qualities is his competitiveness and his will to win another Super Bowl. If he wins one next year, or realizes that isn't possible in the near future, will he decide to walk away?
This realization must trouble AB greatly. He has an incredible rapport with Ben and really hasn't caught a meaningful pass from another QB. It takes time to develop chemistry and timing with any QB, much less a player learning to play at the NFL level. Brown realizes he needs a top notch, younger QB to continue his amazing production, long after Ben has retired.
That is why AB has created this whole scenario. He sees an up and coming franchise with a young, talented QB and no real competition to cut into his production as a preferred destination. Hence the tweets with the San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle.
The Niners don't have a JuJu to steal his limelight. Does it surprise anyone that all this transpires after JuJu's monster season and being named team MVP? It really shouldn't.
AB is no dummy. He is crazy like a fox and always thinking two steps ahead. He remembers the Plaxico Burress/Hines Ward situation. Shoot, he was part of the Mike Wallace decision. Now here comes JuJu. The greatest young receiver, age wise, the league has ever seen. Dude has to get paid big money at some point. Impossible to pay them both top pay for the position. See Brown's dilemma?
I wonder how many other fans paid attention when the camera showed the Steelers offense standing on the sidelines after a possession. There were Ben and JuJu going over the images, discussing coverages and adjustments. Where was Brown during these discussions? Usually sitting over on the bench or talking to another teammate. It was more than obvious he wasn't comfortable with their growing relationship and comfort level.
AB has decided to be proactive in the situation and is trying to stave off the inevitable. He knows he won't prevail over JuJu long-term, so force the Steelers hand while your value is at its apex.
If we are being honest, though I can't stand his tactics, it really is a creative strategy by a brilliant businessman. I believe all of us in Steelers Nation already knew who AB really was deep down, but we didn't care because his actions were good for the Steelers team on the field.
That is no longer the case.