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”.
NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.
Here is the crux of the memo that just went out to teams from the NFL regarding coaches being back in the building safely. Still no players, but a reason for optimism. pic.twitter.com/A8LyqqHJK3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2020
Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”
Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.
While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.
Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.
Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.
Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.
This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Art Rooney II, Steelers Issue Statements on Killing of George Floyd, Protests
Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II released a statement Wednesday on the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the ensuing protests seen across the nation.
“Over the last week, we have witnessed the anger and frustration in our city and around the country relating to the killing of George Floyd and the recent deaths of African-American men and women. We have also witnessed the good in so many people who have peacefully expressed their concerns.”
“I am proud to hear the voices of many of our players who have spoken out against racism and injustice and called for unity. As an organization, we will continue to listen to our players, coaches, alumni and leaders in our community and work together to bring awareness and change in the effort to create a more fair and equal community.”
A number of prominent Steelers players also shared statements and comments regarding Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests, including Cam Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Vince Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt.
Defensive end Cam Heyward:
“A friend, a brother, a father, a son, just someone you meet, these are different ways people might know George Floyd. To know that the color of my skin could be at the discretion of someone who is supposed to protect is truly disheartening. I’m praying for the Floyd family.”
“To know a brother, a friend or someone I care about could be gone due to this just hurts. It’s not acceptable. Thank you for the people who do serve the right way and continue to protect our freedoms. I wish all held up his end and cared for all.”
“We all have people we care about and the fact that we can’t believe in everyone who is in the position of power to keep all safe angers me and tears me up. Change must happen. Our children are inheriting a world that is not improving. Life should be precious.”
“I still can’t find my words to make sense of it all. Too many have died, and not enough has changed.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:
“The cruelty and injustice must stop, racism must end, and love must find a way to prevail. We are all children of God, equal in his eyes, and must hold one another accountable to fair and just standards.”
Running back James Conner:
“If we keep showing hate and violence, we will continue to have hate and violence. If we keep showing peace and love, we will have peace and love. I’ve retweeted disturbing and negative videos to HOPE they understand, but I will only be posting love from here on out. We know what’s been done and know it’s wrong.
“Make the Twitter timeline full of positivity. Like I said, I’ve been guilty of retweeting negative content, but that’s not it. They want the sickening and shameless videos at 100,000+ retweets to keep us divided. Make unity and togetherness the only content we see.”
Inside linebacker Vince Williams:
“Send me the GoFundMe of businesses that have been destroyed by the riots. I’ve done independent searches, but hopefully this helps me to be more thorough.”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“Our country is in pain right now, and coming together is the only way to heal each other. No more injustice!”
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt:
JuJu Smith-Schuster Delivers Pizzas to Steelers Fans
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is bringing some joy to fans during tough times.
Smith-Schuster spent his Tuesday afternoon delivering pizzas for PizzaHut, and even took the time to snap a pic with a young fan, courtesy of JimStamm22 on Twitter.
Hopefully, this gives everyone a little lift today. @TeamJuJu just delivered @pizzahut to our house in Pittsburgh. He even took a little time to take a picture with our son, Ben. Thanks Juju, you made our day!!! 👍😁🍕#Steelers #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/u7u561SheP— ForTheCity_412 (@JimStamm22) June 2, 2020
A fan favorite, Smith-Schuster is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh.
After an explosive sophomore season in 2018, Smith-Schuster battled injuries and inconsistent quarterback play that combined for a lackluster 2019.
With the return of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster appears primed to deliver more than pizzas this upcoming season.