The Pittsburgh Steelers got a meager return for one of the NFL’s great players, but in hindsight, it appears to be the right move.
Antonio Brown for a third-round pick? A steal. For the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown, 31, has been seemingly out of control over the past 18 months or so. During that span, Brown has allegedly thrown furniture off a 14th-story balcony, almost hitting a toddler. He also was pulled over for driving 100 MPH in a residential area outside Pittsburgh, threatened an ESPN reporter and appeared to demand a trade on Twitter last September after a Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. In Week 17, Brown reportedly threw a tantrum in practice and went MIA for days before being made inactive for the Steelers’ game on Sunday.
All this as the backdrop to Brown eventually being dealt to the Oakland Raiders in March for a third-round draft pick. Of course, everything has continued to spiral since for Brown. Despite having $30 million packed into his contract by Oakland, Brown has remained enigmatic, missing portions of voluntary OTAs.
Now, he’s dealing with extreme frostbite on his feet after a cryogenic disaster, and is threatening to retire if the NFL won’t allow him to wear an outlawed style of helmet. In there interim, Brown has reportedly gone radio silent with the Raiders.
While the Raiders continue to be saddled with the chaos, Pittsburgh has gone from one of the league’s noisiest teams to one of its quietest. The Steelers have been plugging along this summer with little national fanfare, hoping the combination of James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington will be enough to keep the offense rolling. The defense should be better with the additions of cornerback Steven Nelson and rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush.
All told, the Steelers come into 2019 with reason to believe they can reach the playoffs and make noise once there. The Raiders hoped Brown would be the central figure in their accelerated rebuild, but those plans are on delay while they hope Brown eventually gets in touch with them.
In Pittsburgh, the feeling has to be one of relief. The Steelers enjoyed eight magnificent seasons from Brown, output which will almost certainly land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’ll be remembered as a Steelers great and eventually honored as such when his playing days are over. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh can charge at the challenge of winning one more ring before Ben Roethlisberger retires with a less-talented but potentially tighter-knit group.
A third-round pick. Oakland has to be wondering when the return policy expires.