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When it comes to the Steelers, time to beat the character drum again

As the 2019 NFL Draft season, and free agency, slowly approaches, character should be a priority for the Steelers.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

One of my first columns here at BTSC argued that the front office did well to give significant weight to character during the draft process. I suggested that the essential trade of Martavis Bryant for Mason Rudolph was brilliant, and a harbinger of good things to come. I suggested that we have a bevy of young players who, while they don’t spend their days polishing their halos, seem by every account to be stand-up guys- James Washington and James Conner, T.J. Watt and Terrell Edmunds.

In that column, however, I contrasted the prima prima donna, Terrell Owens, with our own Antonio Brown. AB, like his fellow citizen of the land of Malcontent, James Harrison, has been known for a terrific work ethic. Until they weren’t. Sleeping in meetings, or simply blowing them off, those are not signs of a good work ethic, no matter how much iron you heft or how many routes you run. I write today to say that while the principle, character matters, was right on, the application, AB is an example of good character, may have been off.

That said, I choose my words with care. I admit that it may have been off. The truth is, that for however much we might like to speculate, we don’t know much of the truth. Since the Bengal game we’ve heard assessments from Ryan Clark about AB in the past. We’ve heard from Coach Tomlin, from Big Ben, about the events of last week. None of which is the same thing as knowing what actually happened, let alone what was going on in the hearts and minds of the key players. Is it possible AB craves some of the love Juju gets? Sure it’s possible. But we shouldn’t begin to think we know. Is it possible AB sees himself as the center of the Steeler universe? Of course. But how would we know that? I even speculated along the way that the breadcrumbs of AB’s off-field stories might lead right back to a home life with children, no wife, and multiple moms. But that’s just speculation. I have no special glasses that spy through AB’s doors.

Character matters. It matters on the field. We have just witnessed the result of a season built on high talent and insufficient character. But it also matters off the field. That is true of the players, and the rest of us as well. Steeler Nation is all too quick to reveal its own character flaws when we proudly assume we know what happened and why. Then we start beating each other up in the comments section when our guess doesn’t get the respect we think it deserves from some guy who makes a different guess.

My advice, and that’s all it is, as I have my own character issues to contend with, is, as hard as it may be, that we let the ones with the authority to deal with whatever happened, with the knowledge of what actually happened, deal with it. The Steelers are “ours” in one sense. We love them, cheer for them, support them, identify with them. But that doesn’t mean we have a vote in team matters, nor insight into team dynamics. Perhaps next year AB and Ben will light the world on fire. Perhaps AB will be gone, and prove to be our own Stan Terlecki, an all-world talent who is a net loss for the team. Perhaps he’ll be gone, and our defensive backfield, or our future, or both, will be well stocked. I know the future only slightly less than I know the past. My hope for both is peace, and victory.