The Steelers once-promising 2018 campaign just came to a crashing halt, and boy do the fans and media want a pound of flesh.
Thankfully for head coach Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator Keith Butler and many others who came up small in big moments over the final six weeks, Antonio Brown came through in the clutch by doing what he usually does: act like a diva receiver.
You know the story by now: Brown reportedly had a disagreement with a teammate in the days leading up to Pittsburgh’s must-win regular season-finale against the Bengals on Sunday—that teammate is rumored to be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—refused to practice the rest of the week and was deactivated for said regular season-finale, a finale in-which the offense looked putrid.
This incident is just the latest in a laundry list of petulant acts committed by Brown over the past year, alone—and let’s not forget Facebook Live-gate and Gatorade bucket-gate.
Now, so many people want Brown gone from the team, “Cut him!” Former Steelers safety and someone who once shared a locker room with Brown, Ryan Clark, now an ESPN talking head, has portrayed No. 84 as a bad teammate and insists Brown and the Steelers can no longer ‘coexist.’
Guess what, they’re just going to have to. They’re just going to have to work these things out.
It has been said numerous times about players like Brown that “You’ll never win with those guys.” Yeah, well, that flies directly in the face of Brown’s historic production as an All Pro receiver in the National Football League. It flies in the face of his almost unequaled clutch gene and the countless times he’s made plays that have helped Pittsburgh win important football games.
Seriously, when was the last time the Steelers lost a game because of Brown’s performance?
Antonio Brown might actually be the perfect football player. He just happens to be one giant pain in the butt. And this is just a guess, but it probably has to do with him never being satisfied with the amount of times footballs fly in his general area code. If that’s the case, Brown wouldn’t be the first pain in the butt wide receiver.
Does this mean he should continue to get away with missing team meetings, having confrontations with teammates and just being a big old jerk?
No, but there has to be a solution better than just parting ways with him. First off, there’s no way you can cut a guy with Brown’s salary, not if you want to spend another offseason complaining about the signing of mid-level free agents. Secondly, you’re never going to get equal value in return for Brown in a trade, not unless the presumed draft pick (or picks) turns out to be a future Hall of Fame legend.
There’s no question Brown’s quirky personality has turned a bit darker and gloomier over the past year. He seems disturbed by something, and the word “underappreciated” has been linked to his more sour mood. Why is that? What has turned Brown into a malcontent? Is it the change in offensive coordinator from Todd Haley (Brown had his best years when Haley was in charge of the offense) to Randy Fichtner, who seemed to favor a more balanced passing attack in his first year at the helm? Are there personal issues Brown is dealing with that have affected his personality? Team owner and president, Art Rooney II, seems to have an affinity for Brown and has publicly defended him, even after some of his most famous distractions. Maybe he can get to the bottom of things and get Brown some help in the form of a confidant (maybe Art II can be that confidant) or even counseling.
Maybe Art II can mediate an airing of grievances involving Brown, Roethlisberger and Tomlin and work this whole thing out.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine Brown’s antics being so distracting they prevent other guys like David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and Joe Haden (real pros) from doing their jobs in the heat of battle. I’m sure the same can be said for just about any Steeler player on Sunday afternoons in the fall.
Is Brown well-liked by the majority of his teammates? Probably not. May his teammates bristle at Brown’s obvious preferential treatment from his head coach and other bosses? Probably. However, this situation isn’t unique to Brown and superstars of his ilk.
Whether he knows it or not, Antonio Brown needs the Pittsburgh Steelers (hard to duplicate the chemistry he and Roethlisberger have on the football field). And the Steelers certainly need Antonio Brown (can’t imagine winning anything next year—even eight games—if Brown joins Le’Veon Bell as an ex-Steeler).
Some how, some way, Brown and the Steelers have to work things out. The team’s immediate future depends on it.