It wasn’t by design that the Pittsburgh Steelers became the face of the ultra-superstar model of roster building. It was mere happenstance that they drafted two players over a four-year span that became not just premium players at their position, but justifiably two of the greatest players in the game, at least at some point during the line.
But with the necessary transition to the ultra-superstar model that they adapted with the explosions of the careers of wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers allowed themselves to make changes—that is exceptions—that likely would not ordinarily be part of their operating process.
And now that that model has run its course, it’s time for the ultra-superstar model to die a hard death in Pittsburgh. Bell will sign elsewhere. Brown will be traded. And the team will move on without them, in talent somewhat worse off, but potentially better off overall.
While the majority of their current teammates who have been willing to speak about their situations on-record have been positive in voicing support for them to return or offer some reconciliation, there is also the sense that many in the locker room have grown tired of the system as well, and when the locker room rejects the order, it’s time to find an alternative.
Certainly the Steelers could have handled things better, without question, along nearly every step of the way. Even Art Rooney II has acknowledged that there are things looking back in retrospect that he would have preferred he and the organization would have handled differently.
But it’s time for them to take all the lessons they have learned from the past decade of handling these superstars and fold them into the fabric of their enterprise, to learn from them and grow wiser in dealing with or avoiding similar situations in the future.
That doesn’t necessarily mean refusing to sign any future ultra-superstar talents at skill positions—everything is always on a case-by-case basis when you are dealing with individuals—but there is a difference between having superior talent and treating those talents so though they are superior to the rest because they demand such treatment.
I know I’m preaching to the choir that this point, but I must concede that I’m a bit of a late convert to the congregation, and so I felt the need to stand up and speak my truth. Bell and Brown, at least as an outside observer, have displayed behaviors and tendencies that should no longer be tolerated in Pittsburgh.
And that is what it was: tolerance. It was the same level of understanding that a mother has for her children as they play with her hair after having come back from the salon. At first. But now we’re tolerating the terrible teen years, and they’re really running afoul now. It’s time to step in.