During the 2018 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the tremendous duo of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown went through a rough stretch of games where the two just couldn’t quite connect. Flashback to October 5th, where Brown told ESPN “It’s like WiFi, you know. Sometimes, the connection is poor. Sometimes, the connection is great. But it’s always connected.”
Now it appears the WiFi may not even be connected.
It’s been a roller-coaster stretch of seven days for the Steelers, a ride that doesn’t even appear to have seat-belts on. From not having Brown due to injury on arguably the season’s most important game, to winning that game and watching their very own playoff hopes snatched from them on their very own jumbotron, Pittsburgh has indeed captured the ups and downs of an NFL season within one week.
In a season where drama followed the Steelers from start to finish, many thought the happenings around the locker room would, at minimum, slow down. That is, until the cat got out of the bag. Pittsburgh originally cited Brown missed Sunday due to a knee injury that has bothered him since early in the practice week leading up to game time. That was before a slew of information was revealed that Brown was not only fully healthy to play, but Brown actually missed Sunday’s game due to missing practices/meetings through the week.
The story then takes a wild, out of control turn. CBS Sports’ Jason La Confora originally reported Brown requested a trade from the team following an outburst during last week. Brown was also cited by other sources as shouting in the locker room, and throwing a football in at the feet of another player after a heated argument. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network proceeded these claims by gathering more (correct) information:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 1, 2019
Drama is no stranger to Brown, and in fact, it’s probably what he’s known for most outside of Pittsburgh and his tremendous football talents. Whether it be from Instagram spats with ex-girlfriends, the Facebook Live video he recorded after a playoff victory, or even tossing a Gatorade cooler on the sideline, Brown’s actions have become the norm on a football team that once took great pride in doing the exact opposite.
That’s not to say Brown is a terrible person, however. Brown’s relationship with fans has been well documented, as he constantly will stop for a fan to take a picture or sign an autograph. He’s also done work in the community, donating hundreds of backpacks to kids in poverty-stricken areas. When the Steelers traveled to New Orleans this past season, Brown was seen greeting Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who has been fighting ALS for nearly a decade.
Congratulations on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. Not only is your fight against and in a search of a cure for ALS inspiring its also offered an incredible example of courage and commitment for my kids and others. @TeamGleason pic.twitter.com/5OLhsmKKSS
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) December 25, 2018
Yet Antonio can’t avoid drama much like he’s able to avoid potential tacklers, and the latest turn of events only furthers that belief. This begs the question, what in the world is going on with Brown?
Some will attribute it to jealousy of fellow teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster and the recent success he’s enjoyed, especially after being voted the team’s most valuable player by his teammates. Others will say he’s been acting out since he received a contract in 2017 that made him the league’s highest-paid receiver at the time, claiming the money has driven him to new heights of acting out. While all of the above may or may not be true, the emotional uprisings of Brown have driven potential trade-talks in the past, yet nothing as serious unfolded when compared to the events of last week.
However, a trade appears unlikely at the moment. Per Spotrac.com, the Steelers are set to accrue $21.1 million in dead cap space from Brown in 2019, meaning with or without Brown on the roster, that amount will be forfeited regardless and cannot count as cap to sign another player. If Pittsburgh is set to foot the bill for Brown’s money, their best bet might be to have him on the team for 2019.
Will a team want to shell out serious capital for a receiver at the age of 30, with one of the highest contracts on the market and clearly cannot be guaranteed to not be a distraction? Furthermore, would the Steelers entertain those offers? These are questions that will need to be answered, but all major signs point to Brown staying in Pittsburgh.
Despite the numerous personal explosions of Brown and his emotions, one common factor proved to be true in all of them: It blew over quickly. Like many other players, frustration grows when their franchise misses a team goal, especially one like making the playoffs. Brown, being the high character he is, again let his emotions get the best of him and will take another PR hit along with the organization.
In his weekly interview with Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger gave some more insight on the situation, saying he had no issues with Brown. He also commented on the rumored outburst, saying “If there was a blow-out, I certainly didn’t see it” while also mentioning they spoke on Thursday, calling everything “great”.
2019 has already gotten off to a rough start for everybody in black and gold. Will anything transpire from the events of last week? Does Big Ben’s word hold true, or is this an issue that will see permanent solutions?
Nobody knows what will truly happen next, and that may be the true beauty of following professional football in this great country. The NFL has emerged as television’s best reality channel, and no matter what turn the Steelers take, there will always be another episode of “The Curious Case of Antonio Brown”.