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For the Sake of Steelers’ Future, Antonio Brown Needs to Go

He might be the best wide reciever in the league, but Antonio Brown might be hurting the Steelers more than he’s helping them. The Steelers need to trade Brown now or they will regret it for years.

Antonio Brown by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For the Sake of Steelers’ Future, Antonio Brown Needs to Go

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

What’s that old saying about the definition of insanity? The Steelers may be reaching that point. They’ve been perennial under achievers this decade, and it might be time to do something different before the Roethlisberger window closes. In the twilight of Ben Roethlisberger’s career, addition by subtraction may be his and the Steelers’ only chance to win one more super bowl. Specifically, subtraction, through trade, of Antonio Brown.

Seems insane right? How can trading away arguably your best player make you MORE likely to win a Super Bowl in the last two years of your Hall of Fame caliber QB’s career? Because clearly this team is never going to win it all on talent alone.

They’ve had that in abundance the last 5 seasons and have nothing but disappointment to show for it. What they have not had in abundance is discipline. Or team chemistry. Or selflessness. Or maturity. And at the center of those absences is Antonio Brown.

Talent does not outweigh chemistry.

Selfishness is the true cancer here. There are those who want Coach Mike Tomlin’s head. There are those who want Defensive Coordinator Kieth Butler to go. Even a few are angry at GM Kevin Colbert (he’s missed on more than a few high-level picks of late.) But these are all easy scapegoats distracting from the harder truth. This team could have 22 All-Pro’s, and if they cared more about themselves than winning for each other, they still wouldn’t win a championship.

The antics Brown pulled in week 17 were definitely not his first. However, they may have been the most agreegious to date. Abandoning his team in their “darkest hour” as Tomlin called it, refusing to communicate, and then to top it all off, openly mocking his head coach on a live Instagram video during Tomlin’s press conference about, among other things, THEIR SEASON BEING OVER. Just look at this tweet he posted on the day of the press conference.

What??? This was about you abandoning your team, not your freedom of speech.

Brown is maybe the best in the world right now at what he does. And those who say he’s just in it for money aren’t looking close enough. The truth is much worse. AB wants attention. AB wants glory. Pure unadulterated, the crowd chanting his name, gladiator style attention and glory. But that’s the problem. Chanting HIS name. And more important, when he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s a child throwing a tempertantrum. Think Verruca Salt in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Ask his Teammates.

Reports from multiple former teammates have been saying for years that the stats are what’s important to A.B. Former teammate Ryan Clark said as much:

As long as he gets his 10 receptions for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns per game, he’s happy, whether the team wins or loses. 

The problem is that culture sets an example in the locker room. Other players look up to AB as a leader, and they learn “ok that’s how to be a superstar in this league. Care about your own glory.” That mentality from an All-Pro might be ok if he’s still putting up points, but what about role players. Players who choose to be selfish in that split second rather than just doing their job, and it costs the team. That has happened for years here. One I identified Steelers player said his own drive to play dropped in light of AB’s actions. Cam Heyward expressed his disappointment.

“We all want AB here, but to be a part of this team you can’t do that. You don’t let your brothers down. It hurt more knowing that there were multiple people in that locker room giving everything they’ve got.

Cam Heyward, Steelers Defensive Tackle and Defensive Captain.

The team felt like he quit on them. That is a dangerous thing to have percolating.

Trade for the Future of the Franchise.

People’s other biggest criticism of trading Brown is that 21 million dollars of dead money go on the books for 2019. This is true. But trading brown could also reap the rewards of 1st round picks. High ones. Cheap in 2019 and future building. The league is trade happy right now. Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper netted the Raiders THREE first round picks. AB’s value is in that realm to be sure.

But this is about more than next year. The Steelers have gone from a proud standard in this league to a laughing stock. They are hard to root for. And the fans are getting annoyed (See Rocky Blier’s rant.) The culture in Pittsburgh needs to change soon or the ship won’t be righted for years to come. That starts with making it known only team first players are welcome. That doesn’t mean choir boys. That means unselfish players. For god’s sake look at their Quarterback.

One way or another, it’s change or die.

It’s something pretty rough when the seeming poster child of team chemistry and maturity is the quarterback whom at one time was dominating headlines for suspected sexual assault. But that’s where we are today. Ben Roethlisberger, who has had to work for almost a decade to reconfigure his image as something other than a diva to Pittsburgh fans, now is the one-star player trusted to put team first on the Steelers. Yes, that includes Tomlin who seems to no longer have his “finger on the pulse” of his players, his one major selling point, but even more so Brown, and before him Le’Veon Bell.

It’s time the Steelers take a page out of their longtime big brothers, The Patriots, book, and clean house of anyone who doesn’t buy into the team first. Like the line from The Longest Yard, “to get along you gotta go along.” That means maybe no amount of talent is worth the chemistry debacle that is the Steelers. Maybe a bunch of scrubs with heart, surrounding a hall of fame QB (sound familiar), is a better formula for success than the superstar circus that has made this team a laughing stock. It starts with Brown. Enough is enough. He needs to go. The culture needs to change.

Michael is a Pittsburgh ex-pat living in NYC as a working bartender and semi working actor. He enjoys long walks down the Strip District, thinks yinz should go dawntawn 'inat, and knows that when you play Pittsburgh you play the whole city. But he's unbiased. I swear. Michael writes mostly hockey and football op eds for the Turf, but maybe soon he'll try his hand at covering horse racing or hot dog eating. Who knows. The sky's the limit.

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