There’s been quite a bit of speculation surrounding the long-term future of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown with the team ever since the 2016 season came to an end and while that’s not likely to cease anytime soon, the recent comments made by one team insider are certainly worth recognizing
During a recent “Asked and Answered” segment on Steelers.com, longtime team insider Bob Labriola was asked if he currently has any concerns about Brown’s future in Pittsburgh and his answer was a little surprising.
“I would say Antonio Brown’s long-term future with the Steelers is up in the air right now,” wrote Labriola. “Re-signing him would require a significant financial commitment on the part of the Steelers, and I believe before that happens management is going to require some assurance that the shenanigans are going to stop.”
Now, if you’ve read and listened to Labriola over the years you should know that he’s not one to entertain outside noise and general speculation concerning players or the team. If anyone’s connected closely to the team, it’s him. That’s why I view his reply as being somewhat surprising as I fully expected he would shoot down the notion that Brown’s future in Pittsburgh should be questioned.
Labriola’s answer, however, is measured and in no way does he indicate that Brown ultimately won’t receive a long-term contract extension in the coming months. It is also probably worth noting that Labriola chose to use the word “shenanigans” in his response and one can only speculate that he’s referring to Brown’s decision to Facebook Live from the Steelers locker room immediately after the team’s Divisional Round playoff win several weeks ago.
If you remember back to a few weeks ago, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sent a warning shot of sorts in Brown’s direction during his Tuesday press conference following that Divisional Round playoff game.
“He is a great player,” Tomlin said of Brown. “He is a hardworking player. He is respected, largely, in the locker room for those things. But incidences such as this [the Facebook Live video] don’t help him in that regard. That’s just the reality of it. In a nutshell, that’s going to be the gist of the conversation that we have and the reality is, those things don’t apply exclusively to Antonio. It’s a global thing in regards to professional sports. I think that’s why oftentimes you see great players move around from team-to-team and I definitely don’t want that to be his story. I am sure he doesn’t want that to be his story.”
Brown, as you all know by now, has since apologized multiple times for his video and I’m sure by now he’s had his season-ending exit meeting with Tomlin. While Brown has since been accused of other unscrupulous actions on the field during the 2016 season by a few members of the Pittsburgh media, there’s no visual evidence that I have seen that support those most of those claims.
I’ve been asked several times since the season ended if I think Brown will ultimately be traded and my gut tells me that he won’t. With that said, I don’t doubt the Steelers will indeed require some sort of assurance from Brown that whatever shenanigans that Labriola is indeed referring to will come to an end before they sign him to a new long-term contract.
Brown is an extremely talented player and while he is about to turn 29 years of age during the offseason, there’s no reason to believe that Father Time will gain any steps on him over the course of the next three or four years. He’s on a Hall of Fame pace that can be quickened with a Super Bowl championship or two before his career ends and I hope he recognizes that.
Above all the recent speculation concerning Brown’s future, I think Tomlin’s quote above should remain in the forefront. Tomlin doesn’t want Brown to bounce from team-to-team and I’m sure the wide receiver doesn’t want that to happen as well.
At some point during the coming days or weeks, Steelers team president Art Rooney II will hold his annual end-of-the-season question and answer session with the Pittsburgh media and I’m sure at that time he’ll be asked about Brown and his long-term future in Pittsburgh. His comments about Brown will then rule supreme at that point and should ultimately clarify whether or not the wide receiver’s future in Pittsburgh is indeed up the air moving forward into the offseason.