‘Mr. Big Chest': Brown, Steelers agree to split after nine rollercoaster seasons

Brook Ward I Flickr

Brook Ward I Flickr

Antonio Brown has been a topic of conversation around the NFL since the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended. Brown, normally in the headlines for crazy stat lines, has been a controversial player off the field. 

Over the past year or so, Brown’s relationship with the Steelers has deteriorated rapidly. 

In January 2017, the Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs to win a spot in the AFC Championship game. However, once the team returned to the locker room, Brown wasn’t excited to celebrate with his teammates. 

He selfishly started a Facebook live video by his locker, spanning 17 minutes long, just showing his own face. 

Meanwhile, head coach Mike Tomlin was giving a speech to the team, preparing them for the matchup against the New England Patriots the following week. 

Brown had no interest in joining the team during the speech, but he did capture what Tomlin said in his video, which he broadcasted to the world. 

This was the first crack in the relationship between Brown and the Steelers. Tomlin then had to explain his words that were supposed to be behind closed doors.

Shortly after the season, the Steelers agreed with Brown on a four-year, $68 million contract extension. 

At the time, this made Brown the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history. 

This was surely a sign that Brown would be with the team for the long term, and the Steelers had fixed any issues they previously had with the player. Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t last.

In November 2018, Brown was cited for reckless driving and speeding on McKnight Road in Pittsburgh. 

A video surfaced on social media showing Brown’s car being chased by police. The wide receiver reportedly went over 100 mph in a 45 mph zone. He was not arrested for this violation. After a season of altercations between Brown and his teammates, it all fell apart in Week 17. 

At the end of December 2018, Brown was benched for the team’s last game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was not dressed for the first half and departed the stadium by halftime. 

Brown had an argument with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger earlier in the week after missing various team activities. 

The Steelers decided to take disciplinary action regardless of their crucial Week 17 matchup, eyeing a playoff spot. This was his third argument with Roethlisberger in the 2018 season.

In January 2019, Brown was involved in a domestic dispute. Reportedly, he pushed the mother of his daughter — Wiltrice Jackson — to the ground during an argument over money for his daughter’s haircut. The only witnesses to this altercation were Brown and his daughter. Brown wasn’t arrested, but it surely wasn’t good publicity. 

Following various tweets from Brown’s account hinting at an exit from the Steel City, Brown formally submitted a trade request from the Steelers on Feb. 12. 

A week later, he met with the team’s owner, Art Rooney II. While they tried to sort out their differences, they decided it was time for both to move on. 

The progression of running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been great for Pittsburgh, especially with running back Le’Veon Bell and Brown heading out the door. Roethlisberger could also retire anytime now, so the Steelers’ will have to retool quickly after losing two superstars in one offseason. 

It's a little early to tell, but it's fun to speculate where Brown will end up playing next year. The Steelers will likely demand high draft picks in return for Brown, something only few teams can afford to give up. 

Also, a potential trade partner must have enough cap space to take on the bulk of Brown’s remaining salary. A few teams, such as the San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers, would certainly be interesting fits. 

It remains to be seen, however, who will be willing to part ways with draft capital to take on the expensive, aging and characteristically concerning wide receiver.

SportsRay MaurerComment