Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

For years now, the Steelers have been working around Brown’s maladaptive tendencies from Monday through Saturday and throwing him the ball on Sunday and hoping for the best.

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A little less than two years ago, Art Rooney II was praising Antonio Brown as “one of the hardest-working players, I think, we’ve ever had.

“He leads by example,” the Steelers’ president continued on the occasion of Brown’s four-year, $68 million contract extension. “And I think, at this point, most importantly, he has a lot of records, he has a lot of accolades, but there’s really only one thing on his mind and our mind and that’s bringing another Super Bowl trophy here.”

A little less than two weeks ago, Brown was leading the charge toward another Lombardi. His 19-yard, toe-tap grab on fourth-and-15 with just over a minute left in regulation had to survive a replay review to be believed. It was the last reception of a brilliant, 14-catch, 185-yard, two-touchdown afternoon that might have helped deliver the Steelers another AFC North Division championship if not for a subsequent JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble.

It might wind up being the last catch of Brown’s spectacular Steelers career.

Everything he’s done since suggests he wants out, and the Steelers might have reached the point where they’re willing to accommodate him. His conduct unbecoming in the days leading up to this season’s “darkest hour,” in head coach Mike Tomlin’s estimation, a home game last Sunday against Cincinnati the Steelers needed along with help from Cleveland to reach the postseason, convinced the Steelers they’d be better off without Brown against the Bengals.

Brown had finally crossed a line.

And it appears there will be no going back.

Tomlin acknowledged as much on Wednesday in a season-ending press conference the Steelers held far too early, leaving the door open to achieving a resolution to the long-running Brown saga but also refusing to refute the suggestion that the best receiver in Steelers’ history had quit on the Steelers.

“There’s some things you can infer, certainly,” Tomlin said.

That morning, defensive end and defensive captain Cam Heyward had said pretty much the same thing while concluding a series of weekly appearances on the DVE Morning Show.

“We all want ‘A.B.’ here but to be a part of this team you can’t do that, you don’t let your brothers down,” Heyward maintained.​

Heyward spoke of a fractured trust in the locker room but offered an olive branch when he added, “‘A.B.,’ if you’re listening, give me a call.’”

Brown’s response was to mock Tomlin on Instagram, along with former Steelers linebacker James Harrison, as Tomlin was addressing the Brown saga with the media.

At the very least, accountability will be demanded to mend fences.

And Brown has never cared much for being accountable.

He’s played for the team but he hasn’t been a part of the team.

That’s the way Brown has wanted it.

That’s been the case for a long time now, even before the infamous Facebook Live incident in the locker room in the 2016 postseason in Kansas City.

That’s on Brown but it’s also on the organization, from Rooney II and the investors/ownership group to General Manager Kevin Colbert to Tomlin and his staff to the players, especially the Steelers’ leaders, who shared a locker room with Brown when Brown chose to show up for work, for excusing behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated, even from an All-Pro.

For years now, the Steelers have been working around Brown’s maladaptive tendencies from Monday through Saturday and throwing him the ball on Sunday and hoping for the best.

Maybe that John Stallworth jersey Brown had hanging in his locker fooled everyone just enough.

Maybe everyone saw Brown for what he’s been all along, but the trade off for catches such as the one Brown made against the Saints or on Christmas in 2016 with nine seconds left against the Ravens was one the Steelers were willing to make.

Whatever, the ticking time bomb has finally gone off.

Now that it has, a parting of the ways seems inevitable.

And once that occurs, the Steelers will have gone from losing Ryan Shazier to injury in 2017, to losing Le’Veon Bell to a contract dispute in 2018, to losing Brown in advance of next season because this season became the season in which the Steelers and one of the hardest-working players in franchise history could no longer co-exist.

That’s no way to win another Super Bowl.

At least team chemistry has a chance to be better moving forward.

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section