by Jordy McElroy
Troubled wideout Antonio Brown’s apology tour has been a step in the right direction towards mending broken relationships, particularly with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A nine-year rollercoaster of a marriage between the two sides is enough to forgive but not forget.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, of all people, should be the most apprehensive man in Pittsburgh about a potential reunion with the future Hall of Famer. Brown has undermined his authority on so many occasions that outsiders were beginning to question his leadership. Some even opined the organization would be better off firing him and hiring someone else more suitable for handling the larger-than-life personalities.
“Toney Toe Tap” had essentially morphed into “Toney Tornado” for the Steelers.
It’s the same individual that pulled up a Facebook Live session during a private post-game playoff speech from Tomlin. It’s the same guy that has repeatedly attacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger through social media and accused him of having an “owner’s mentality.” It’s the same Brown that publicized private messages from fellow teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster.
If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, then the Steelers opting to re-sign Brown would be absolute madness.
Granted, they should continue to support the rehabilitation for his mental health. Tomlin alluded to that support during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” by claiming Brown would always be a Steeler. He’s also aware of what being in business with the seven-time Pro Bowler is really like these days.
And business clearly isn’t booming.
Another team out there will roll the dice on Brown’s talent if he’s eventually given the green light by the NFL to return. He still looked like one of the best receivers in the league in the one game he played in 2019 with the New England Patriots.
But the Steelers don’t need the sort of baggage that would come with that reunion. Tomlin certainly doesn’t need the stress of constantly looking over his shoulder with Brown back in the locker room. Sometimes the talent isn’t worth the headache.
What happens when Brown is critiqued by Roethlisberger or Tomlin on a play? Will he shut down on the team if Smith-Schuster has more passes thrown to him in a game? How would he respond if the team levied greater conditional restrictions on him contractually?
Those are all questions the Steelers would have to ponder before even considering reconciling a business relationship with Brown.
Then there is the overarching legal drama.
It hasn’t even been a month since Brown was standing before a judge in an anti-suicide vest after being arrested on charges of burglary and battery. There are also the ongoing sexual misconduct allegations that have come from multiple alleged victims. Brown continues to vehemently deny those claims as being true, but there is no denying trouble seems to follow the NFL star wherever he goes.
Assuming everything checks out legally, there is hope around the league that he gets the help he needs for an opportunity to finish out his career on a high note. However, that note shouldn’t be for a Steelers organization singing to a different tune right now.
Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell—the Killer B’s—was one of the greatest assembly of offensive talents in NFL history. Although the trio never won a Super Bowl together, they struck fear into the hearts of opposing defenses and created a highlight reel that will be marveled at for generations to come.
But no one will talk about the near self-destructive effort it took for Tomlin and others behind the scenes to keep it all together. Nine years of dealing with the same drama on a daily basis—it’s a wonder it didn’t implode sooner.