Antonio Brown Saga Rocks NFL

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Antonio Brown Saga Rocks NFL

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been the epitome of success for more than half a decade, forming one of the top quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL with future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger. Brown has consistently been faced with controversy during his All-Pro career, and this past season was no different; in fact, this season may have been more tumultuous than years’ past. After running back Le’Veon Bell, widely regarded as one of the league’s premier runners, refused to report to Steelers’ facilities in hopes of a better contract, most football fans and experts thought the Steelers would be unable to meet the same level of success of previous years. Nevertheless, the Steelers jumped out to a 7-2-1 start, and controversy was all but a thing of the past. It seems, however, that the Steelers took their foot off of the gas too early, as they won just two of their final six games, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Even worse, Brown did not show up to practice in the days before the team’s final game, a win that would have clinched them a spot in the postseason. Brown requested a trade from the team shortly thereafter.

Since then, tensions have been on the rise, but no one imagined how the turmoil in Pittsburgh would escalate next. The first riff for Brown came after a Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. When a fan tweeted critically about Brown’s performance and attitude negatively impacting the team, Brown replied with the comment “trade me, let’s find out.” The Steelers were mostly unfazed by this undisciplined behavior, but there was much more to come.

Brown did not have any other major issues during the season until the Week 17 debacle. Brown was initially ruled out for the crucial game with a knee injury, although no reports followed of him actually being injured. Just a day after the game, news broke via multiple sources that Brown was not injured; rather, he had had a spat with Roethlisberger in the middle of the week and did not show up for practice the rest of the week. Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, reportedly told head coach Mike Tomlin that Brown was able to play the day before the game despite missing practice the last two days. Tomlin said that was not an option when Brown showed up to Heinz Field, the Steelers’ home stadium the next day. Brown was so frustrated with Tomlin that he left the stadium at halftime of the game. After this news broke, some fans were outraged at Brown’s lack of accountability. “Brown is at fault because he didn’t show up to a number of practices before a must-win game,” said sophomore Brett Zornberg, “He put himself before the team,” added Zornberg.

Rumors about the Roethlisberger-Brown spat grew exponentially as more information became available. The consensus is that Brown was unhappy with Roethlisberger, and the fact that Tomlin sided with the quarterback on more decisive issues proved to be the tipping point for Brown. Some reports indicate that Brown may have thrown a football at Roethlisberger out of frustration. Brown also did little to mute the rumors about himself. Since the issue first arose, Brown has responded to other teams’ Twitter “recruiting” on several occasions, even going as far as unfollowing the Steelers on twitter and following the San Francisco 49ers (Brown has since unfollowed the 49ers). Brown has also posted cryptic messages, possibly to amuse fans, or to get a reaction out of Steelers’ ownership. One example of this is Brown posing with Steelers owner Art Rooney II. In the photo, the two are shaking hands, and the caption reads, “good business.” This post came mere hours after Rooney commented how it was difficult to envision Brown being with the team come training camp next fall.

Many football fans at LHS feel it is time for Brown to move on from the franchise. “Brown has immense value,” said sophomore Jake McDonald, “I say trade him because the Steelers have an up-and-coming #1 receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster,” added McDonald. Brown certainly has immense value, but even if Pittsburgh trades him, the team will still retain $21 million out of the $22 million he is owed next season. Potential trade candidates thus far include the aforementioned 49ers, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and Green Bay Packers; all four teams are notably strong at the quarterback position. Wherever Brown may end up, teams must understand that in signing Brown, a potential Hall-of-Famer, they are signing a generational talent. However, there is risk involved as well: Brown is going to be 32 this year, and his attitude problem may get worse before it gets better. Brown will certainly want a major contract after next season. Right now, a Brown trade could end up being a game-winning touchdown or a big time-fumble.

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