John Steigerwald: Antonio Brown looks crazy like a fox
Antonio Brown got the last laugh.
He laughed at the Steelers and laughed at the Oakland Raiders and he laughed at the National Football League, and if you think he cares about the $15 million in guaranteed money he left behind in Oakland on Saturday, he’s laughing at you, too.
Brown has made $52 million the last three years, including the $9 million signing bonus he got from the Patriots. If he makes it through this season without getting released for violating his contract, he’ll get $6 million more.
So, when this season ends, he’ll become a free agent with a chance, at 32, to add at least another $15 million in guaranteed money.
Brown has the maturity of a 16-year old and is a prime candidate to join the long list of former NFL multimillionaires, but there’s also a decent chance he knows he has all the money he’ll ever need and is not driven by money as much as he’s driven by wanting to control his own destiny.
When he wanted out of Pittsburgh, he died his hair blue and acted like an idiot on social media. It worked. So he tried it again when he wanted out of Oakland.
And nobody will convince me that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, didn’t have conversations with Bill Belichick to find out if he just might have some interest in Brown in the event he was released by the Raiders.
Maybe Brown is crazy like a fox. Sure looks like it right now.
Meanwhile, a theory that seems to be pretty popular in these parts had a big hole blown in it Sunday night. You know, the one about how the Steelers’ offense being better without Brown?
Forget it. It’s not.
JuJu Smith-Shuster discovered Sunday night that it’s going to be much harder to get open without Brown getting most of the secondary’s attention.
Ben Roethlisberger, when he’s scrambling, is going to miss seeing number 84 running around looking for an open space. Nobody in the current group is as good as he was at bailing him out.
A perfect example of that was the Steelers’ first possession of the second half. It was second and goal at the Patriots’ 7-yard line. Roethlisberger scrambled and avoided the rush and looked into the end zone for an open receiver.
He waited too long, took a hit and fumbled. The Steelers recovered on the 3-yard line, but nobody in the NFL is better than Brown at finding an open spot in those situations.
That had a lot to do with him leading all receivers in touchdown catches last season.
We’ll never know if Brown could have found an opening and Roethlisberger could have found him before he fumbled.
Sunday night, Mike Tomlin settled for a field goal.
For months, we’ve been hearing Brown and his distractions being gone will make their offense better.
That might be true if the Steelers went to the single wing and became a running team, but their offense that threw the ball 67% of the time last season is not going to find more than 100 catches and 15 touchdowns by using a committee.
It’s only one game and it was on the road against the best team in the league, but former NFL head coach Rex Ryan may have nailed it when he said on ESPN, “Not having Antonio Brown will definitely make the Steelers a better team from Monday to Saturday.”
Imagine how much worse it would have been for the Steelers Sunday night if Brown had been playing for the Patriots.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.