The Pittsburgh Steelers spent a significant portion of their 2018 season alienating running back Le’Veon Bell for wanting job security, then the players who were there argued with each other, and then they had to hope for the Browns to win in order to get into the playoffs. (The Browns did not win.) The team appears to have a sequel to this ordeal in production, this time with receiver Antonio Brown.
Days before the Steelers’ Week 17 game, Brown got into an argument with and threw a football toward quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, then disappeared from practice. The receiver didn’t play in the team’s last game of the season due to a vague knee injury that was reportedly a cover for his unexpected absence. Brown also skipped the team’s exit meetings and hasn’t talked to his coach Mike Tomlin in weeks.
That wasn’t his only disappearing act of the season. In Week 2, Brown was seen arguing with his coaches as the Steelers were losing to the Chiefs. The day after the defeat, he tweeted, “Trade me let’s find out” when a former team staffer claimed Roethlisberger was responsible for the receiver’s success. The next day, Brown didn’t show up to practice.
Now, not only do the Steelers have to figure out what the hell they’re going to do with Bell, whose rights currently belong to the team, but they have to do the same for Brown. Team president Art Rooney II makes it sound like the organization will once again go with alienation. From Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney said in his first public comments since Brown skipped out on practices and team meetings leading up to the Dec. 30 game at Heinz Field. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.
“Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
The team can’t do anything until March 13, the first day of the new league year, but Brown will be due a $2.5 million roster bonus four days after that. Rooney may have vowed to look at “all the options” except for cutting Brown, but in reality that’s ... two other options? What else is there besides “keep him” or “trade him”? The WR’s projected cap hit for 2019 won’t be an obstacle, according to Rooney:
Brown is scheduled to count $22,165,000 against the salary cap in 2019. If the Steelers trade him, he would still count $21,120,000 against their cap — $12.6 million salary, $7 million pro-rated signing bonus and $2.5 million roster bonus. However, the Steelers would save $15.1 million — his 2019 salary plus roster bonus — in real money.
Rooney, though, indicated Brown’s salary-cap ramifications would not play into whatever decision the team makes.
“That has to be taken into consideration, but, as I sit here today, “I’m not going to say that’s going to box us into anything,” Rooney said. “If we decide something has to be done, we’ll figure out how to deal with that.”
Anyway, there’s a good chance the Steelers do this again in 2020 with JuJu Smith-Schuster when he wants a new contract, leading a bunch of Yinzers to turn on him and say he should be kissing the feet of the big, lecherous, potato-shaped quarterback who loves to huff and puff about all his teammates’ mistakes.