And so it ended, not with a bang, but with a whimper. The bang would follow days later.
No, I’m not talking about the implosion of the universe but rather the implosion of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 season and the aftermath that followed. While they won their finale game against the Cincinnati Bengals, barely, with a replacement kicker making the game-winner, they had to literally watch from the field as the Baltimore Ravens intercepted Baker Mayfield to seal the victory that put Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, effectively, to bed.
That sucked the air right out of the stadium, of the team, of the organization as a whole, but the excitement would quickly return once it was reported exactly why wide receiver Antonio Brown had not played in the finale. It was supposedly about a knee injury, but there are questions about whether his knee ever even bothered him, let alone that it kept him from practicing.
It was reported that there was some blow-up with him as the central player in that incident during a Wednesday walkthrough leading up to the game prior to practice that day. He would not participate in any other activity on the field for the rest of the week. He was even sent to get an MRI that he chose not to take.
Over the weekend, he went AWOL, despite the efforts of a number of people to attempt to contact him, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s inability to gain a proper assessment of his health status led to him declaring him out for the game—though reportedly many of his teammates were insistent that he not be allowed to play.
Since then, he has continued to ignore all of his coaches and the front office, and presumably the vast majority of his teammates, while making subtle references to a revealing interview that will never happen. He has made it clear that he feels underappreciated, saying the team is “indifferent” to him and most recently mocking Art Rooney II’s comments by saying that “all options are on the table” when asked where he will play in 2019.
Pretty ballsy thing to say for somebody who is under contract for multiple years.
But this is the topic that has consumed not just the Steelers’ offseason but much of the NFL’s offseason altogether. They may have been more discussed during the postseason than any of the 12 teams that actually participated.
And there is no end in sight, so this could continue to drag out for several more weeks until free agency hits. In the meantime, we are left to try to juggle this massive ball with all of the other balls we try to get to in the offseason, including draft and free agency preparation, as well as post-season analysis and observation.