During his extensive ESPN interview, one of the reasons that wide receiver Antonio Brown cited for the deterioration of his relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers was because they never showed him a basic level of respect and caring for him as a person, regarding his history, his background, and his personal life.
Among other things, he said things like Art Rooney II had never been to his house. But after he was just given a substantial raise and a lot of guaranteed money, I’m guessing he couldn’t care less if Mark Davis ever even acknowledges him.
Brown said a lot of ridiculous things, but the most egregious thing to me was his attack on the organization as an uncaring entity when we have an extensive history of comments from players who have experienced the culture from different types of perspectives affirming the family-oriented nature of the Rooney family’s manner of conducting their business.
After all, didn’t he and several members of the front office literally fly to meet him, before he made those comments, just to hear his side of the story after they repeatedly tried to get in contact with him for several weeks?
One of Brown’s closest teammates has been Maurkice Pouncey, both of them perennial Pro Bowlers and products of the draft class of 2010. Pouncey had expressed optimism that the two sides could reconcile and continue to work together. Perhaps he doesn’t know Brown as well as he thought he did.
Brown also put words in Pouncey’s mouth during that interview, saying that he had a problem with General Manager Kevin Colbert’s comment in which he referred to the 52 players on the roster who had not won a Super Bowl as ‘kids”.
The five-time All-Pro’s comments to the team’s website on Thursday after signing a new two-year extension that gave him the highest per-year average on the new-money portion of the deal strongly suggested otherwise.
“I appreciate [the Steelers] more than anyone could ever say or imagine. I really do. They are family to me”, he said. “I love Mr. Rooney. I love the Rooney family. I love everything they preach and they bring. Our coaching staff, Coach Tomlin, he has been there since day one and he has been more than a football coach to me. He has been a father and a friend and I appreciate everything he has done”.
Either Pouncey and Brown had extremely different experiences with the organization on many levels—and if that were indeed the case, Occam’s Razor would suggest that he had a lot to do with that—or his argument was mere camouflage for his greater concerns, chief among them being the money.
“It means family. It’s bigger than football. It means joy. It brings so much excitement. My whole entire family is a football family”, the center continued later. “The Steelers organization, that is exactly what it is. It’s more than just a business to them. They have a different side. They have a different feel. They are there every day. They care about their players. I truly see that. I know it’s a business when people look at the NFL, but the Steelers have a different way of handling business and you can appreciate that while you are playing for them and working for them. They are a family to me. That is the biggest word you can ever say”.
Perhaps in time, after he retires, Brown will be welcomed back into the family, but he’s done a lot of damage to his relationships with them, and it’s hard to accept him on face value when he suggests that that actually means anything to him.