It’s not very often that a player in the NFL actually goes AWOL before a game simply because he is unhappy with something related to his football team. Players don’t go AWOL all that frequently, but when it does happen, there’s usually a pretty serious reason behind it.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown cost himself a football game, seemingly, because he doesn’t get his way as much as he would like to. Or perhaps, as he might feel, because he is being undervalued and underappreciated, either based on how a teammate or coach might treat him or how they might value another player in relation to himself.
Regardless of the reason, most seem to hold the belief that the situation as it unfolded could have, and should have been avoided a long time ago, and that the responsibility for that falls at the feet of Head Coach Mike Tomlin. That was the subject of much of the discussion between Randy Moss and Ryan Clark recently on ESPN.
“I really think that a lot of it falls on Mike Tomlin because, what, it finally took all this time to just sit Antonio Brown down, by him not showing up? He should’ve nipped this in the bud years ago”, Moss said, and used himself as an example. “You talked about prima donnas. People labeled me as a prima donna, but I told all of my coaches, ‘you treat me like every other player on this football team’”.
“I understand where you have the stars in the National Football League, you have the prima donnas, but Antonio Brown did make a mistake”, Moss continued. “He made a mistake by not being available for his team in that situation. But do we know what has happened and brought it all the way up to this point for the two faces of the franchises to be clashing?”.
Of course there is a lot of information that we don’t have, both for Brown and against Brown. We don’t have a full rundown of his conduct behind the scenes over the years, nor do we have a list of things that have set him off.
Both Clark and Moss faulted Tomlin for letting things go on for too long. “I say for sure, there were things he could’ve done differently in dealing with Antonio that keeps it from getting here”, Clark said. “When you have a guy like that, you do what you have to do to keep him part of the team, because he is so talented, he’s so famous that when he does something like this, it doesn’t just hurt #84…it hurts those other guys who may not” be here next year
While he faulted Tomlin for letting Brown get away with things, Clark was obviously highly critical of the wide receiver. “You show up in a mink coat and you leave at halftime when I’m fighting for my life. Right? Because I don’t get another chance. We don’t get this year back. So you don’t necessarily go in and say you gotta let him go. But things have to change”.
“Things have to change” is the prevailing wisdom in Pittsburgh this offseason, but only time will tell how much will change and how substantial that will be. Will that change include or exclude Brown? It’s too early to say, but we do know that the same Brown that has been in the locker room can’t come back in there.