Antonio Brown deserves whatever comes next

I don’t know whether to feel sorry for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Antonio Brown, or join the legion of Steeler Nation cheering for his exit from Pittsburgh after Brown’s selfish heel turn. 

A former sixth round draft pick coming out of Central Michigan University, Antonio Brown started his rookie season with the Steelers in 2010 and worked hard to quickly establish himself as the most talented receiver for the Black and Gold.  In his rookie season, Antonio Brown helped the Steelers to their most recent Super Bowl appearance (February, 2011). 

Brown has achieved All-Pro status seven times in the past eight seasons.  He was rewarded by the Steelers with a new four-year contract worth $17 million per season (worth $68 million overall and included $19 million as a signing bonus).   At the time of his contract, he was the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.

On the field in 2018, Antonio Brown finished this year with more than 1,000 yards in pass receiving for the sixth straight year.   Despite missing the final game of the year, he led the entire NFL with 15 touchdown receptions. 

Antonio Brown will be 31 years old before the next NFL season and remains under contract to Pittsburgh for another three seasons.

Yet, Antonio Brown is loudly and frequently telling everyone who will listen or decipher his frequent Twitter posts that he wants out of Pittsburgh right now, and the Steelers are (apparently) planning to entertain trade offers to ship their best wide receiver out of town.

How did this happen?

When you take a look at the long journey of Antonio Brown’s life, his ascendency to becoming one of the NFL’s premier receivers has been riddled with a litany of self-inflicted miscues, too.

Coming out of a Miami (FL) high school as a talented quarterback and track star, Brown’s poor academic performance cost him a chance to play for Florida State.  He then went to tiny North Carolina Tech Prep for a season. 

After one season in Carolina, Antonio Brown was offered a scholarship to come back to Florida and play for Florida International University.  Unfortunately, he was expelled from school prior to the start of the semester due to an altercation with campus security. 

Brown found a new opportunity with Central Michigan University where he found success as a punt and kickoff return specialist as well as a budding wide receiver.  His natural speed and his willingness to work made him a sixth round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers after his junior collegiate season.

With Pittsburgh, Antonio Brown learned his new professional craft beside all-star talents like fellow wide receiver Hines Ward and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  With Brown’s talent and work ethic, he quickly became a star in Pittsburgh and throughout the NFL.

By 2016, though, things started to unravel with Brown’s increasing self-inflicted errors.  He was fined by the NFL for wearing baby blue cleats (uniform violation).  He was fined twice for two separate “suggestive” post-touchdown celebrations.

After a tight playoff win against Kansas City, Brown posted the Steelers’ locker room celebration live on Facebook.   It was later learned that Brown had been paid nearly $250,000 by Facebook for “content”, so he believed he was fulfilling his part of the deal.

Unfortunately for Antonio Brown, he should have checked first.  The NFL doesn’t permit such arrangements and a few of his teammates (including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) had asked Brown to keep a lower profile on social media.

Making things worse, Brown’s selfish post-game broadcast also embarrassed his head coach, Mike Tomlin.  During the locker room celebration, Brown’s video caught a few vulgarities made by Tomlin about the team’s next playoff opponent in New England. 

The Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs the next week…by New England.

Antonio Brown lit his own locker room match at that point.  His antics can be perceived as selfish by a majority of his teammates.  You can only imagine how Coach Mike Tomlin felt.

Enter 2018. 

After receiving his big contract extension in Pittsburgh, Antonio Brown’s regular season performance was still at a high level despite some new bizarre behavior.  He threatened a reporter, a former Steelers’ player, and allegedly threw furniture off the balcony of a south Florida apartment balcony. 

With the Steelers’ playoff hopes starting to fade late in the season with tough losses against the Chargers and Saints, Antonio Brown skipped multiple practices prior to Pittsburgh’s season finale against Cincinnati due to a series of heated disputes with teammates and coaches.

Brown showed-up for the ball game and walked onto the field in a fur coat instead of his uniform.  Coach Mike Tomlin apparently told Brown “don’t bother” and opted not to play him in the final game. 

The Steelers won the game but were eliminated from the playoffs after Baltimore won their game over Cleveland.

This week, Antonio Brown bypassed both his coach and general manager and arranged a meeting with the Steelers’ owner, Art Rooney II.

Brown and his agent are demanding a trade from Pittsburgh.  If you believe all parties, a trade may, indeed, happen soon.

NFL wide receivers are well known for their large egos and fearless attitudes.  It comes with the territory as it also takes guts to catch a football thrown across the middle of the field with a defender ready to smash you as soon as you catch the ball. 

Antonio Brown’s recent antics makes me wonder (seriously) if he has taken a few too many head shots during his NFL career.  He appears to be more erratic and self-destructive over the past several months.

If he gets his wish and is traded out of Pittsburgh, the odds are against him that he will be playing for another NFL team able to utilize his talents as well as the Steelers did for nine seasons.

With all this drama, though, Steeler Nation has seen and heard enough out of Antonio Brown and seems ready to move on without him, too.