On the outside, it really seemed as though a lot of the drama that the Pittsburgh Steelers put themselves through off the field had subsided this year. While that obviously didn’t produce more success on the field, at least there wasn’t a weekly episode of TMZ dedicated to the Steelers, so to speak.
As it turns out, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there was more than meets the eye last year. Perhaps the team just did a better job of keeping a wrap on things—which isn’t even saying much. It’s alleged that Antonio Brown had a pretty significant dust-up with Ben Roethlisberger and pretty much chose not to be a part of the team this past week, though he was still expecting to play. He left at halftime when he did not.
All of this got me to thinking about some of the remarks that we heard from Roethlisberger and Head Coach Mike Tomlin after the game. We were told that Brown had a knee injury and he would test it before the game to see if he would go. Tomlin’s comments after the game when asked about the subject didn’t really reflect that.
As I wrote about yesterday, he told reporters that “we just decided not to” dress him because “we wanted to go with the healthiest of guys, and the guys that worked during the week”. He added, “I just thought that under the circumstances that we were in, the healthiest, most prepared guys would give us good, quality play, and I think they did”.
He said nothing about there being a pre-game decision about his status, let alone one that was based on his physical health. Knowing what we know now—or what has been reported—I think this reads a little clearer.
While Roethlisberger wasn’t referring to Brown, he also made a comment that stuck out to me. He was talking about working with so many younger teammates and how their personalities and temperaments could differ and make it more difficult to relate and communicate.
“You look at the roster and you realize there’s a lot of 20s [in age] on the roster”, he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to relate to guys for whatever reason, because of that age gap. You know, you’ve got 15, 10 years, sometimes more. Sometimes it may be hard to relate to guys, and so you find ways as a leader to relate, to communicate, to be close with them”.
Then he added, “it’s been a challenging, fun year doing that with young guys”. And we know it’s been a challenge on the field with Brown, too. The pair struggled to connect consistently through much of the season, and most of Roethlisberger’s interceptions were on targets to Brown.
The Steelers are dealing with a situation that’s tough. Brown is a talent that you can’t walk away from, but you also can’t let him hurt the team. He can’t be given special treatment or be allowed to act out in any way that shows he’s above his teammates or coaches. I would be stunned if the two sides were to part ways—it doesn’t make sense cap-wise, for starters—but how can they not do something internally to address it?