Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown

USA Today

AB Drama

The Antonio Brown situation is making the Le’Veon Bell situation look calm.

January 02, 2019 - 10:41 am

The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of those teams who ended last season with the thought of making a run at a Super Bowl this year. And man, what a year it was.

Remember Le’Veon Bell? Remember that whole thing? Because that feels like it was fifteen years ago now. But that was all in this NFL season. And somehow, the fact that they missed the playoffs this year feels like the least of their worries, because now there’s an Antonio Brown situation.

To recap: Antonio Brown missed the Week 17 game against the Bengals because of a knee injury. Horrible timing, given that the team was still battling for a playoff spot. 

Even worse than getting a knee injury in a moment like that, is the fact that it wasn’t a knee injury at all. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Antonio Brown did not play in the season-ending game against the Cincinnati Bengals because he elected to sit out practice last week after a dispute with Ben Roethlisberger” 

I’m sorry, what? He didn’t play in the final game of the season because he elected to sit out practice after a dispute with his quarterback? 

But wait, there’s more. According to the Post-Gazette: “The disagreement occurred Wednesday morning during a routine walk-through practice that precedes their regular afternoon practice on the South Side. Brown was disgusted and threw a football in Roethlisberger’s direction, several sources said.

After that, Brown did not practice the rest of the week. According to a source, it was Brown’s decision not to practice with his teammates.”

So AB and Ben are going through a walkthrough, something happens, Brown is disgusted and throws a football at Roethlisberger and then does not practice the rest of the week. That’s weird. AB has done some weird things: but that’s next level weird. 

But it’s still not even the weirdest part. The Post-Gazette has more: “He did not attend Saturday’s walk-through practice and skipped the Saturday night meeting at the team hotel — the latest in missed meetings by the All-Pro receiver.” 

And still more: “According to several sources, Brown showed up at Heinz Field expecting to play against the Bengals. That surprised several players, including one who called the situation “embarrassing” and “the worst I’ve seen.” That player said the entire situation and the way it was handled affected his desire to play in the game.”

One of, if not the best receivers in the league, gets into a thing with his quarterback at a walkthrough, throws a ball at him, doesn’t practice the rest of the week, then shows up at the game expecting to play, and things are so bad that one teammate calls the situation “embarrassing” and “the worst I’ve seen.” And that it affected his desire to play in the game.?! That bad??

Holy crap. That is one insane situation. 

You know how I’ve said you can’t count on anything in the NFL and that from week to week, nobody knows anything? It wasn’t that long ago that the Steelers had the Killer Bees, that three-headed monster of Ben, Bell, and Brown, and they were killing everyone. 

Now Bell sits out the season, Brown is chucking footballs at Ben, sitting out practices and being held out of a Week 17 game.

With all that turmoil, missing the playoffs isn’t a disappointment - the fact that they managed to win 9 games is a miracle. 

So what do you do NOW you if you’re the Steelers? Obviously this isn’t the first time that there has been some extra noise around Antonio Brown. In fact, there’s been so much extra, that I don’t even have time to get into it. And that’s only the stuff that we know about.

Don’t get me wrong. This has always been a big AB house. I have nothing but respect for the fact that he was a 6th round pick out of Central Michigan. He was the 195th player taken in his draft and he has been grinding ever since. He has built himself into one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. And he has an enormous personality. Think about it – not just the touchdowns, but the always interesting arrivals at training camp, the radio row appearances, etc. Business is always boomin with AB. 

And at the same time, there are other things that in other places would be distractions. Missed meetings. Social media posts. Stories from former teammates about practices. But people put up with all of that. 

Why? Because even in a down year and a season where he missed the final game because of all this, he still had more than 100 receptions, nearly 1,300 yards, and still led the league in touchdowns. 

So what do you do now?  Because this has gone beyond mere distractions: beyond AB being AB. Now we’re talking about a guy who literally took himself out of a game that playoff implications, apparently fracturing the locker room in the process. So what do you do now if you’re the Steelers?? The knee-jerk reaction is to trade him, but when you get into the weeds on his contract and the salary cap implications of dealing him, it’s ugly and it’s really ugly for the Steelers if they do deal him. Not only will you not get value back for a future hall of fame wide receiver who everyone knows you have to trade, but it really hurts you with the salary cap. 

So if you didn’t play him in Week 17 because it was so toxic and trading him would be so costly, what do you do?

At this point, your solution is: hope.

You have to hope that he turns things around. One, because he’s an incredible talent. Two, because it would be really, really costly to trade him. 

So you’re stuck hoping that he and Ben can make it right. That he and Mike Tomlin can get on the same page. That he doesn’t pull a Le’Veon Bell. That he wants to make this right and comes back next season in a new frame of mind. Because trading him is not a good option. Not when you consider what it will do to the cap. 

Because through all of this in the past, he’s always shown up. But in Week 17, he wasn’t there. In Week 17, when his team was battling for a playoff spot, he wasn’t on the field. Not because of a knee, but because of all this other garbage.

Again, this has always been a big AB house. And no, I’m not there, so I’m not privy to everything that’s going on. But I know this, there’s no way they want to trade one of the best to ever do it: no way they can afford to trade him, when you consider the cap implications: and Brown probably does have some legitimate concerns. But this is on him to turn it around, and make it right. Because forcing the team to trade him is all wrong: for them and for him. It should have never gotten to this point, and here’s hoping he owns it and turns it around. If I’m the Steelers, I’m still not looking to trade this guy. Unless he leaves them no choice. And I hope that’s not the case. They’ll take him back and then they have a chance to finish what they started. Provided he comes correct and owns it.  The fact that he missed a week 17 game for the reasons he did, is on HIM, not them.  Own that. Make it right. Because at this point, the Antonio Brown situation is making the Le’Veon Bell situation look calm.