Antonio Brown is gone. For a third and a fifth. I know, I know. It sucks. A lot.
Hey, at least the Pens beat the — *checks notes* — oh…nevermind.
Here’s a hard truth for you. It had to happen. Brown wasn’t going to be a Steeler in 2019 or ever again. You knew it. Kevin Colbert, despite his public comments, knew it. And unfortunately, so did the rest of the NFL.
And that means one thing. Never getting the value you want, need, or deserve.
Brown was as phenomenal in tanking his trade value as he is making toe-tap catches. Getting teams to jump out of the deal with his antics, veto ability – that’s why we’re talking about him as a Raider, not a Bill – and new contract as the cherry on top. It’s a minor miracle there were any teams still left in the hunt.
When options are thin, can’t keep him, hardly anyone to trade for him, the cost drops like its Enron stock. Pittsburgh had no leverage here. And I can imagine that’s how the conversation went.
Colbert: “Give us a first.”
Gruden: “No, you’ll take a third and a fifth. The only teams left for him are us and the Toronto Argonauts.”
Does that make me feel better? No. And it shouldn’t you. But the Steelers were boxed into a corner. No other moves on the chessboard to make.
I know what your counter argument is. Alex, keep him. Make him sit. Suspend him. Don’t let him control the situation.
It sounds good. Really, it does. In Colbert’s heart, I bet he agreed. Making Brown sit and stew feels like the righteous thing to do. But karma doesn’t win you games. That’s a move you make with your heart, not your head.
Keeping Brown left two scenarios.
1. He plays and is a total malcontent. I don’t think he would’ve willingly sat out. That doesn’t make him money; he loses it. Begrudgingly, he would’ve shown up, certainly skipping spring workouts and probably camp, too. When he did show, it would’ve been the year of AB. Playing by his rules, as he’s talked about over and over.
You think the drama was bad before? Turn the dial up to 11 and break the knob if you have Brown in that locker room. Hard to preach about “team” and everyone working together if Brown is off doing his own thing. And you can guarantee he would’ve been. Total chaos.
2. Or the Steelers put an end to it and suspend him. First, there’s a CBA limit on how long teams can suspend a player, a maximum of four games. So all you’re doing is eventually bringing a suspended AB back to your locker room. How do you think that’s going to go over?
And the time he isn’t around, I guess you could just make him inactive each week, you’re in the same predicament you’re in now. Trying to function as a team without Antonio Brown. Except you have all the drama and none of the compensation. Getting a third and a fifth for Brown is better than literally nothing.
There was no classic “angel on one shoulder, devil on the other” scenario. The devil sat on both shoulders. It was about picking the option they hated less. And that was trading Brown for whatever was under Oakland’s couch cushions.
Make no mistake. It’s not a good day for the Steelers franchise. They’re objectively worse off for it and the front office isn’t blameless for getting into this mess. But once they were in it, and they were chin deep, there wasn’t a viable option to come out ahead.
Trading Brown is the hardest decision this franchise has made in years. It’s not fun knowing you’re taking a step back.
But was it the right one? Absolutely.
Now if you excuse me, I’m going to throw up.