When news broke last week that the rift between Antonio Brown and the Steelers apparently was too great to be rectified, and that the star receiver had officially requested a trade, the proverbial stuff hit the fan.
At least one Steeler fan burned his No. 84 jersey (apparently because he wanted me to call him stupid in this article), and others began to speculate as to where Brown would wind up and what the team could get for him in return.
Can they get a decent draft pick, say a first rounder? How about a two and a four? How about just a two if it’s the 49ers’ second round pick which is practically a first round pick, given their struggles in 2018?
Based on Brown’s recent transgressions, transgressions that include going AWOL during the week of the must-win regular season finale against the Bengals and a recent domestic abuse allegation (and let’s not forget his speeding transgressions and throwing his furniture off of a balcony in Miami), unloading him for fair value may not be so easy. Add in his social media posts on Tuesday bidding farewell to Steelers fans after nine great years or whatever, and Pittsburgh may be lucky if it gets a four and four (or maybe a four and Sammie Coates) in return in a trade for Brown.
Some say good riddance—whatever the Steelers get back for this distraction, this diva, this locker room cancer, is good enough. In fact, Ed Bouchette, a long-time Steelers beat writer and insider, said as much in a Post-Gazette article shortly after Brown’s request was made public.
I don’t agree with this growing sentiment to just unload Brown or that the Steelers should just accept whatever they get in return as compensation for him.
Why unload a very valuable asset for pennies on the dollar just because the asset wants to leave town? The Steelers situation with Brown is a lot different than it is with Le’Veon Bell. For starters, Brown is not a free agent until after the 2021 season, meaning Pittsburgh holds his rights for the next 48 regular season games. Secondly, unlike Bell, Brown is all about his legacy, his numbers, his place in the game. He wants the football, and he wants it all the time.
If the Steelers say to Brown, “Yeah, we heard your request, but, nah, we ain’t gonna do it,” what’s he going to do next year? Sit out? Retire? Be a distraction? As for that third thing, unless Brown intentionally drops passes or runs to the opposite end zone the moment he catches one, I can’t imagine him being much more than a disgruntled employee in 2019.
You don’t go out and buy $20,000 rings declaring that you’re the GOAT at wide receiver if you’re not about your numbers and carving out a place for yourself in NFL history. Say what you want about Brown, but his ego, his work ethic is mostly what has made him so great—the best receiver in franchise history. Brown is the kind of athlete that is driven to be the best, to prove he deserves to be on the Mt. Rushmore of receivers with the likes of Jerry Rice. That doesn’t happen if your career ends wtih 821 receptions. Sure, Brown has had an historic run in terms of overall receiving numbers over the past six seasons. But is Brown interested in his historic run or is he interested in immortality? If it’s the latter, he ain’t sitting out in 2019.
And even if he does, so what?
What’s the worst that can happen, the Steelers will be without their star receiver as well as fair compensation for his absence?
Guess what? The odds of the Steelers getting a fair return for Brown are really low. And even if the return is miraculously fair on paper, there’s no way the compensation will ever come close to being the kind of all-time great Steeler Brown is.
Does this mean I think Brown should stick around? Nope, not anymore. I think it’s time for him to leave town and not come back until about two decades from now, when he’s more mature and realizes just how good he had it as a Steeler. But if I’m the Steelers, I’m making sure Brown knows that they hold the leverage in this, not him.
Just because you ask for a trade and then go to social media to say goodbye to the fans, doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. It’s like the one episode of The Office, when Michael Scott shouted, “I declare bankruptcy!”.....it doesn’t mean anything.
If Brown wants to leave town, he has to do his employers a solid and shut up and stop acting like a fool in many different ways. Even after his meeting with Art Rooney II recently, if the Steelers don’t feel they are getting quality compensation, there is no guarantee of a deal getting done.
The Steelers are a very proud and strong organization, and they’ve rarely allowed a player—even a superstar player—to dictate things to them.
They don’t have to start with Brown.
If Brown wants out of Pittsburgh, he has to stop sabotaging his trade value.
Antonio Brown may not care how he leaves the Steelers, but the Steelers need to care, and they need to realize they hold all of the leverage.