It never is easy for the Pittsburgh Steelers lately, as there is always some ongoing drama yet to unfold. The current drama, as you all well know, concerns wide receiver Antonio Brown and his going AWOL over the weekend, which led to his being inactive in the team’s critical Week 17 game, which they barely won.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter knows something about playing the position with a bit of an ego. Now in the media, he weighed in on the situation yesterday on First Things First. “Ultimately, I believe this is gonna be a significant moment in Mike Tomlin’s career”, he said. “I mean he’s got tremendous credibility coming into this season, but it seems as if the longer we go, the more credibility Mike Tomlin is losing”.
After reaching the postseason in four straight years, the Steelers fell off in 2018, losing four of their last six games and going 9-6-1, not good enough to make it to the next round. Brown’s production and behavior has been a topic all year, and it reached a head in the past week, of course.
“So Mike Tomlin, I believe in this, everyone is going to be watching how he reacts”, Carter said. “Now, I wouldn’t overreact if I’m the coach and decide that I’m immediately going to trade him, because I’m not going to take that dead money and just say, ’you know something, I’m not gonna have Super Bowl aspirations’”.
“So I’m not going to overreact and say yes I’m going to trade him, but yes I am going to do something”, he added. “I believe this right here will be how Mike Tomlin is judged. Does he go on to be another 5-8 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers? Or are we in the last days of Mike Tomlin? I believe that, based on what he’s going to do, that’s going to determine that”.
Carter also shared some of his own insights from his playing days and gave his opinion on how Brown has approached the situation over the past week. “I have a huge problem with Antonio having his agent call the coach”, he said. “For one, the agent doesn’t have a relationship with the coach the way the athlete does. So anytime you have your agent do your dirty work, and I know this from the coaches that I experienced this with, Buddy Ryan and Dennis Green—he always said, ‘don’t have your agent call me. Whatever you want, you’re gonna have a better chance of getting it accomplished if you call me’”.
“Dennis Green, he used to always say, ‘now, I will protect you until I can’t protect you’”, Carter expanded. “So for me, this was Mike Tomlin where he said, ‘I’ve been protecting him’—and this is what coaches do—‘I’ve been protecting him, I’ve been protecting this guy, I’ve been protecting him, and now I can’t protect him’. So he gave us some insight into what transpired, to them having to suspend Antonio before Sunday’s game”.
I think there can be little doubt that Tomlin has spent a good deal of time over the course of the past nine years protecting not just Brown but many other players in the locker room. This is what goes on in every locker room. It’s not unique to Pittsburgh. That doesn’t mean nothing went wrong or nothing needs to change.