I happened to come across an article yesterday about Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints that I couldn’t help but feel was unusually relevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent months. Payton, the Saints’ veteran head coach, recently said on the radio that he intends to install a scrambler in the team’s locker rooms that will prevent players from accessing social media during pregames and through the postgame media obligations.
I would imagine that I don’t have to explain where the Steelers connection in this story might be. Pittsburgh’s All-Pro wide receiver, Antonio Brown, was fined by the team in recent weeks after he took to Facebook Live following their victory over the Chiefs in the Divisional Round.
Of course, the Steelers were on the road in that instance, so Pittsburgh setting up a scrambler system in their locker room actually would not have done anything to prevent Brown from taking to social media in a visiting team’s locker room.
“Payton said that “it’s not a violation of your freedom” when he was asked about the scrambler in the interview, saying that he didn’t want to prevent players from listening to music, for example. But he did say that this was something that he was doing on his own and had nothing to do with the rest of the league.
The topic of Antonio Brown was naturally brought up, and Payton had an opinion about that as well. “It’s a lot easier to handle if it’s a third-string tight end”, he said. “It’s much more difficult to handle when it’s one of your top players. But that being said, I’d have been pissed”.
The Steelers weren’t overly thrilled about it either, and you can imagine that we probably won’t be getting any more post-game locker room access from Brown in the immediate aftermath anymore. It’s a literal violation of the league’s social media policy, which is why he was disciplined.
But I could not imagine Mike Tomlin ever going to this length to prevent players from posting on social media. To the chagrin of many, he has come into this job from day one committed to treating his players with the assumption that they are responsible adults who don’t need to be directed as to how to behave.
Not every team is managed like that. The Patriots are certainly not given similar leeway from their own head coach. And arguments can be made as to the efficacy of each philosophy, and whether or not there is one overriding approach that would work better than another or if it must be resolved on a case-by-case basis.
It’s interesting though to hear this sort of direct response to the situation that the Steelers have had to deal with thanks to Brown. Payton is getting ahead of things in trying to prevent a similar thing from happening under his own watch. I would be curious to see if this becomes a trend.