The Pittsburgh Steelers are learning the hard way what happens when a team needs their star players more than their star players need them.
Players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are demonstrating what happens when players practice what they preach when they say, “I’ve made enough money, I don’t need this anymore.”
Bell missed the entire 2018 season rather than let himself be controlled by the franchise tag; he is now an unrestricted free agent and can sign wherever he wants or, if that doesn’t suit him, he can simply retire.
“Had a great meeting with Mr. Rooney today we discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues!” Brown tweeted afterward. “We both agreed that it is time to move on but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and (Steelers) organization.”
Had a great meeting with Mr.Rooney today we discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues! We both agreed that it is time to move on but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and @steelers organization! #CallGod #Boomin pic.twitter.com/DEgURchvhW
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 19, 2019
Now it’s just a matter of working out the trade details.
In an interview with Jeff Darlington that aired Saturday on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Brown made it clear that at this point, he’s far more concerned with playing on his terms than with being a good company man.
“I don’t even have to play football if I don’t want, bro,” he said. “I don’t even need the game. You know what I’m saying? I don’t need to prove nothing to anyone. If they wanna play, they gonna play by my rules.”
Whether teams are willing to play by Brown’s rules remains to be seen. He’s a 30-year-old highly paid veteran in a rookie-contract league who brings with him the baggage of quarreling with coaches and teammates.
Brown is due a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17, so the Steelers have an incentive to work quickly in getting him out of town.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins have shown interest in Brown’s services; none of those teams is in Pittsburgh’s division, and the Redskins are in the opposite conference, so if the Steelers want to avoid having to play against their former star, there are no obstacles in the way for their front office.
The three teams that have shown the most interest in wide receiver Antonio Brown to date are the Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans, per league sources. Thus, the battle for Brown could develop into a battle between Grudens, Jon and Jay.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 2, 2019
Brown’s “character issues” were on clear display in the ESPN interview, however. His refusal to accept any culpability for the breakdown in the Steelers’ locker room certainly will give otherwise interested teams pause when it comes to getting a deal done with Pittsburgh.
At the same time, teams have overlooked far worse if they thought it would improve their chances of winning football games.
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