ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler published a very interesting article yesterday in which he cited a large number of both current and former Pittsburgh Steelers players, both on and off the record, who shared their thoughts on “The Antonio Brown Situation™”. I say interesting instead of enlightening because it’s difficult to say just how much we actually learned.
Not to fault the reporter for his great work on the piece, but if I’m being honest, my main takeaway from the feedback that Fowler was given from Brown’s teammates is that many people have had very different experiences in dealing with him. Some have even said that he is not to blame.
In other words, everybody is necessarily wrong about what’s going on with Antonio Brown because nobody has the full picture. Everybody who has offered a comment about it is going to have something that isn’t quite right. For one thing, he has very different relationships with different players. For another, there aren’t many left on the roster who were his teammate from the beginning until now.
The Wednesday walkthrough incident is a case in point. Did Brown throw a football? Did Ben Roethlisberger throw a football? Was there even an incident, and how much did it actually resemble any of the multiple unique accounts that we have heard? Maurkice Pouncey for his part said that Brown did not throw a football at anybody.
The only thing that really seems to be clear is what we’ve known all along, which is that Brown gets treated differently from most other players, and this is also something that Head Coach Mike Tomlin has always been upfront about. It’s not uncommon to hear him speak some variation of “I don’t treat everybody equally, but I treat everyone fairly”.
“As the leash gets longer”, former Steeler Will Johnson said to Fowler of Brown, “he gets the feeling that he can do whatever he wants. That’s where Tomlin might have wished he would have squashed this earlier”.
One of the things that he has generally let slide is apparently a habitual tardiness—but not absence—to meetings, which former Steeler Doug Legursky said was common but not an issue. “He shows up late with a big smile on his face”, he said. “You’re not even mad”.
Or at least he wasn’t mad. Others probably were. Everybody has a different opinion about what they have seen from Brown’s conduct and how that conduct was handled internally, and that opinion has been shaped by the selective and subjective opportunities and interactions that player or coach has had with Brown over the years.
Does Brown need to be a better teammate? Does he need to readjust his attitude in thinking that he is entitled to a number of luxuries others are not afforded, while taking advantage of those benefits? The answer seems to be yes at the very least. But beyond this, information is too limited from any one source to the point of contradiction.