The Pittsburgh Steelers are willing to welcome back Antonio Brown with open arms, but the mercurial wide receiver isn’t helping by avoiding messages.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have been leaving messages for Antonio Brown since the end of their season in December.
Brown is yet to return any of them, per a source with knowledge of the situation.
Despite the public acrimony, the Steelers would welcome Brown back into the fold. An additional source says that Tomlin remains very fond of Brown, the only head coach the four-time First-Team All-Pro has ever had at the NFL level.
Still, Brown has remained steadfast in his determination to stay clear of any interaction with his team.
Brown, 30, is arguably the game’s best receiver, although his playing style takes patience and understanding to play successfully with. Selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, the seven-time Pro Bowler is a tremendous worker and a people pleaser, but he freelances consistently against man coverage. This trait requires Roethlisberger to adjust his throws in an instant, all while reading the defense from both his and Brown’s perspective.
While Brown might believe it’s best to find a fresh start, he’ll be hard-pressed to discover a better situation. In Pittsburgh, the freelancing and attitude are accepted far more than they would be in other systems and cities. Brown has built up relationships and a history with Tomlin and Roethlisberger, despite the quarterback throwing 10 of his 16 interceptions when targeting Brown last season.
Of course, the Steelers still determine the outcome of this standoff. Brown is under contract for three years at a team-friendly $39 million. Trading him would trigger a dead cap hit in excess of $21 million, all while hurting the team’s chances of winning another Super Bowl before the 36-year-old (turning 37 in March) Roethlisberger retires.
Brown has long employed a one-against-the-world mentality. It’s made him great. It has also made him self-destructive. Now, with his personal and professional life thrust into chaos over the last year, he’s putting up walls to isolate himself from the madness.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have to make a choice yet with Brown. The league year doesn’t begin until March 13, when the Steelers could officially trade him to another team if they get an overwhelming offer. Four days later, a $2.5 million roster bonus is due.
The Steelers, never a franchise to crumble under pressure, will take their evaluating the situation.
In the meantime, they will keep sending messages. The question is will Brown start answering?