While in the waning months of his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers, wide receiver Antonio Brown couldn’t get enough of every opportunity to badmouth his future-former team, because Art Rooney II, he felt, probably doesn’t know the name of whatever girlfriend he might be with at the time.
When Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is asked to comment on their former relationship in interviews now, however, he wants his former teammate to “shut up already“ and move on. Another former Steeler wasn’t quite done talking about his former team, though, and that was New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell.
Speaking to the media heading into the regular season opener after not playing in the preseason, he talked about his history of using slights as motivation, which is common among athletes, whether those slights are real or imagined, or at least exaggerated.
“Even before I got to Pittsburgh, you always got to look somewhere to find that chip on your shoulder for motivation,”, the USA Today quoted him as saying. “So when I got to Pittsburgh, I used that from the draft. I remember all the teams that passed on me. ‘I’m going to make you regret it’”.
“Then I got to Pittsburgh and we had the whole contract thing that happened”, he added. “It didn’t work out in Pittsburgh. I’m out of Pittsburgh…I’m thinking I’m going to show everybody. I’m going to show people that, look, Pittsburgh had something special and they let it go. That’s what I’m going to go out there and do”.
Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics, but it can certainly be argued as to who ‘let it go’ between himself and the Steelers. Even back in 2017, reportedly, he was offered a contract that both his agent and his mother told him to sign. That was a lesser deal than he received and rejected in 2018, which one can argue was a more robust offer overall than the one he ultimately signed with the Jets.
So for him to frame it as the Steelers choosing to simply let him leave is at least disingenuous. They franchise tagged him for two years because they were trying to keep the band together. They gave him reasonable contract offers that he chose not to accept.
But we’re talking about a player’s internal motivation, and if he wants to use the Steelers not giving him the sort of contract that he was after as fuel for a strong comeback season after choosing to sit out all of 2018, then I’m certainly not going to take that away from him.
His Jets will host the Steelers late in the season, so it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he has put up by when, and how Pittsburgh’s defense has fared. We should know at that point how much we ought to read into whatever happens during that game.