In case you didn’t know, the Steelers have been portrayed as a joke, a circus, a soap opera, “Team Turmoil” for the past however many weeks, months, seasons.
The national media, especially, has simply loved to portray the Steelers in such a fashion and has gotten lots of mileage out of just about every negative story involving the franchise the past few years.
If you are a member of the national media, you, of course, know the main clown in the Steelers ongoing circus act has been perennial All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. Brown has been such a handful in recent years that despite his historic six-year run which has included 686 receptions for 9,145 yards, he was shipped off to the Raiders for the proverbial six-pack and a bag of donuts. You know of Brown’s acts of insubordination, the constant drama he brings to the team, his recent off-the-field issues—throwing furniture off of a balcony, driving 100 mph on McKnight Road and shoving the mother of one of his children—that suggest he might be dangerously close to either going over the edge or going to jail. You know about these things because you’re constantly talking about these things.
The Steelers were the clear victims, here, right? And even if they weren’t, they should be applauded for trying to right the ship by parting ways with a man who was clearly tarnishing their shield.
But instead of the Steelers, Brown appears to be the “good guy” as far as the national media is concerned.
Everywhere you turn, Brown is being lauded for his stance against the Steelers. He’s being patted on the back for using a flamethrower to burn his way out of town, to get the new contract he so richly deserved, to get a fresh start in a work environment that isn’t so gosh darn toxic.
Here’s a Tweet from national talking head Mike Greenberg about Brown and how he did what he had to do to get out from under such horrible working conditions:
“Antonio Brown did what any NFL player must to gain leverage in a league where the rules are slanted so hard against him. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. He did what he had to do. And he won. #Steelers #Raiders.”
Exactly what leverage was Brown lacking with the Steelers? Targets? Money? Preferential treatment?
We know he wasn’t lacking targets, this despite never truly having enough to satisfy his ego. The man averaged 114 receptions and 1,524 yards over the past six years. Yet, the guy was so petulant, not only did he bristle over the infamous “Flatter route” comment from Ben Roethlisberger’s radio show two days after that ridiculous loss to the Broncos, Brown recently expressed his displeasure over not being thrown a pass for the entire first quarter of a football game.
Speaking of Roethlisberger’s “Flatter route” comment, we also know that Brown has shown up his quarterback on several occasions when the ball either wasn’t thrown to him or thrown to him accurately. Even worse, we know that Brown has visibly sulked when Steelers other than him have scored touchdowns (this has been reported on more than one occasion).
A growing sentiment is that Brown’s surly attitude, something that was quite obvious to many starting last summer, was due to money—or lack thereof.
You see, Brown wasn’t the highest paid receiver by the time the 2018 season kicked off, this despite being the GOAT!
Maybe he wasn’t, but Brown was the highest paid receiver when he signed a five-year, $73 million contract extension just two years ago.
So, I guess that, according to people like Mike Greenberg, if you’re not the highest paid player at your position every single second of the day, you’re allowed to be disgruntled? You’re allowed to use every underhanded tactic imaginable to get what you want?
Let’s not act like the Steelers didn’t bend over backwards to make Brown happy financially throughout his time in Pittsburgh; in addition to signing him to a contract extension totalling over $42 million heading into just his third season, they fronted Brown money in the form of bonuses on more than one occasion before he inked his new deal in the spring of 2017.
As for preferential treatment, let’s not even go there.
Repeatedly late to meetings and rarely disciplined for it? Living off campus during training camp? Constantly getting the team penalized for excessive celebrations (pre-2017) and not facing any repercussions from his bosses? The whole Facebook Live incident where even his boss, Art Rooney II, defended him afterward, going so far as to give him that aforementioned lucrative new deal?
Antonio Brown was Mr. Preferential Treatment.
To sum up just how wrong the national narrative really is, Brown had it very good with the Steelers. Yet, he decided to act miserable—like he wasn’t being treated fairly.
Fact is, Antonio Brown was the top heel in this very ugly divorce.
Not only did he fail to show up to practice and meetings prior to a very important Week 17 game against the Bengals, he left at halftime of that game when head coach Mike Tomlin rightfully deactivated him.
After the end-of-season blow-ups with Roethlisberger and Tomlin, Brown refused to return the phone calls from his boss—Art II. He repeatedly trashed Tomlin and Roethlisberger in interviews and especially on social media, going so far as to “like” Tweets accusing Roethlisberger of rape.
No question about it, Antonio Brown is an all-time Steeler great. However, he’s not an all-time Steeler favorite among the fans and the Pittsburgh media.
Oh, sure, the fans wanted to like him—and they did for quite some time. But when you repeatedly do things to disappoint them, such as show up hours late to events where you’re who they came to see—like at autograph sessions and to Children’s Hospital to see sick kids—that tends to strain the relationship.
As for the local media, they were kind of warning us about Brown for years, like when they would mention that he failed to show up for his own radio show.
Despite his production, production that is unmatched by the vast-majority of receivers who have ever played in the NFL, the fans and the local media couldn’t wait for Brown to get out of town.
That should tell you something.
Antonio Brown was a world-class jerk on his way out of Pittsburgh, and the national media needs to wake up and stop defending him.