It’s time to move on from Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. They’re not members of the Pittsburgh Steelers any longer. This is the message you’re going to hear repeatedly, because every time somebody speaks for the first time, they’re going to be asked about it and they’re going to need to give this answer.
Today it was Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s turn, who spoke to the media for the first time since his season-ending press conference a few months ago. Back during the season, in referring to Bell, who chose not to report, he made a comment that the team needs volunteers, not hostages. He reiterated that remark in referring to his two former malcontent players.
“We can’t do this with hostages, we need volunteers, we need good players, good guys that want to be here”, he told local reporters at the annual league meeting earlier today, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If guys can’t check those boxes, then it’s probably best for all parties involved we go our separate ways”.
For all intents and purposes, Bell was the first two leave. After two years of failed negotiations, he chose to sit out his second year on the franchise tag, even though he would later say that there were multiple times during the regular season that he nearly reported.
He signed with the New York Jets several days into free agency in a deal many have compared unfavorably to the one the Steelers reportedly offered him, and in an interview with Sports Illustrated, accused the team of treating its players as though they were not human and his former teammates of not wanting to see him succeed—while calling himself a “great teammate”.
As for Brown, much of the concern seems to have been significantly more recent after tensions mounted heading into the final week of the regular season. The wide receiver, who still had three years left on his contract, skipped practices citing an injury he chose not to get looked at and then ignored all attempts at contact from the team during the week, which led to his benching.
“All I know is that neither one of those guys are members of our team anymore”, Tomlin said of the current state of the situation. Brown forced the Steelers to trade him, with his wild demands for a raise and a large portion of his contract being made guaranteed proving to be the biggest hurdle, resulting in them getting only third- and fifth-round draft picks in compensation for him.
“Relationships run their course; the fact that neither one of them are here speaks to that”, the team’s head coach surmised as he heads into one of the most critical seasons of his tenure. Referring to Brown, but applying to both players equally, he remarked, “he’s no longer a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers so I don’t feel it’s necessary to comment on his comments” about in-house matters”.