For the second time this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are at odds with a superstar player.
First, it was Le’Veon Bell and the saga of his franchise tag that lasted 11 weeks, and now Antonio Brown is unhappy and appears to want out of Pittsburgh.
This seems like something Vince McMahon would book in the WWE, however, this is real life drama, something the Steelers seem to always be involved with.
So how did this team get to the current state of affairs?
It was reported earlier this week that Brown and a teammate got into some sort of altercation with Brown throwing a football at said teammate before storming off the field. It was then reported that the teammate in question was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has since denied any blowup happening.
On Thursday of last week, Brown sat out of practice with “knee soreness.” On Friday, head coach Mike Tomlin had Brown sent for an MRI, but Brown did not go. Then on Saturday, Brown elected to skip the final walkthrough and team meeting at the team hotel. When he arrived to Heinz Field on Sunday, he was not in the lineup and then left around halftime.
The Steelers went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, but failed to qualify for the playoffs as the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North.
Pittsburgh now has a longer offseason than anticipated and has a lot of turmoil to clean up. One thing this team should do is trade Antonio Brown.
Trading a player of Brown’s caliber isn’t something that happens often, but certain times call for certain measures. Brown has proven time and time again that he can be a distraction and is a selfish, ego-driven player. He has had spats with Roethlisberger and offensive coordinators over not getting the ball enough.
Obviously the Steelers would need to get a good package of draft picks, which they would get if any team is smart enough to trade for Brown. The Steelers weren’t winning with Brown (nor Brown and Bell for that matter) and now it’s time to get some value for him.
Brown has reportedly asked for a trade, but Tomlin denied that at his press conference on Wednesday.
If Brown gets his supposed wish, Pittsburgh could then use those assets to further build the defense. Roethlisberger will be his normal self for two-to-three more years, or when he elects to hang up the cleats. The Steelers found out this season that Juju Smith-Schuster can be a No. 1 receiver as he hauled in 111 passed for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns and was named team MVP. So the offense can continue to keep on ticking.
Rumors have been circulating, speculating where Brown could end up and one destination that keeps getting brought up is San Francisco. This comes after 49ers tight end George Kittle tweeted out “Sup?” to Brown, who responded with a happy, starry-eyed emoji.
Getting rid of Brown is a risk financially, as he will be owed $22.1 million next season, which is what the cap would hit for. If he is traded or cut, the Steelers will still be responsible for $21.1 million.
Is the AB drama enough to keep Tomlin around?
Heading into the must-win, Week 17 matchup with the Bengals, the future of Mike Tomlin coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers was up in the air. It was the right time to at least entertain the discussion of getting rid of Tomlin, even if that isn’t the Steeler way.
This fairness of questioning has absolutely nothing to do with accolades or anything Tomlin has accomplished during his tenure at the helm of the Steelers. This is about having control of your locker room and not letting seasons get lost due to drama.
Tomlin has proven time and time again that he does not have total control of the locker room. Players seemingly can do as they please and Tomlin is the one to blame for that. You don’t see these kinds of issues happening with Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
With the latest drama involving Brown and his future, it is now time for Tomlin to take a stand and regain control of his locker room. He is a good coach, but too often he is more of a rah-rah guy and a player’s coach, but there are times you need to put your foot down. Benching Brown was a good start this past Sunday, now it would be wise to move on from him completely.
Tomlin was asked whether Brown’s antics, both on and off the field, could outweigh his production and he answered with “certainly.” Now that doesn’t mean he wants to get rid of Brown, but you can tell he isn’t pleased and is at least open to that notion.
The relationship between Tomlin and Roethlisberger will make it nearly impossible for either of them to leave, so the next option is Brown.
Speaking of Roethlisberger, he recently stated that the Le’Veon Bell situation hurt the team as it was a distraction.
Well yes, and no.
Sure, the Steelers players and coaches were growing tired of the same questions about their absent star running back, but that was put to rest after week 11 when Bell did not sign his contract tender. However, in the time without Bell, Pittsburgh raced out to a 7-2-1 record, including a five-game winning streak. After the Bell saga was finally dead, the Steelers finished 2-4 and played down to their opponents, as is normally the case with this team.
This was a nightmare season for one of the most decorated franchises in the NFL and now it’s time to reassess and move forward. Changes are surely coming, but only time will tell if any major moves happen. The Pittsburgh Steelers need to focus on cleaning up the dramatic mess they are in.