The only jersey a player should have is his own, says Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has picked up something of a reputation for exchanging jerseys with opposing wide receivers during the last season, at least. Last year, he was seen on the grass at Heinz Field, trading his game-worn jersey for the one worn by Lions WR Calvin Johnson.
Most recently, he signed a jersey for his childhood friend, Jaguars practice-squad receiver Tommy Streeter.
That apparently was the final straw for Tomlin.
"Jersey switching has been banned by the Steelers," Brown said Wednesday, via ESPN reporter Scott Brown. "Coach (Tomlin) doesn’t want us doing it anymore."
This comes a year after flipping into the end zone was outlawed by Tomlin and use of the team's ping-pong and pool tables was banned in the locker room after the team got off to one of its worst starts in decades.
Is it No Fun Tomlin in Pittsburgh? The act of exchanging jerseys would seem something more of an off-the-field issue, something that shouldn't be entirely in Tomlin's control. It's not as if Brown is calling timeout, removing his jersey and tossing it over to the opposing bench.
This recent decree also comes in the wake of a late-game decision to complete one more pass to Brown, extending his NFL record streak of 20 games with at least five catches and 50 yards. The Steelers were able to kneel out the clock in a one-possession game against Jacksonville, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger opted to throw a short pass to Brown because of the record, he would say after the game.
Tomlin said, also after the game, they felt they needed another first down to seal the win.
The seemingly contradictory move also appears to be laced with revenge. While it's unclear how often the practice of jersey-swapping is done, Brown is the one who receives the most attention for it and perhaps that aspect of it is what disturbs Tomlin. Brown was singled out after the team's loss to Tampa Bay for picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his end-zone celebration after a touchdown in the game (he had two of them).
Compounding the issue even more is Brown's impromptu announcement of the decree. Tomlin's press conference Tuesday made no mention of the internal rule, but he will no doubt be asked for an explanation soon, creating more atmosphere surrounding the 3-2 Steelers as they prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.
It's a fair question to ask, too. Is it really worth it?
UPDATE: The Steelers came to an agreement with "Sports Fanatics Authentics" in September of 2014 to handle all game used authentic apparel and collectibles, which is a main reason why the banning of exchanging game jerseys has now been identified as something the Steelers can't, and won't, do anymore.