John Steigerwald: Players need to shut up, grow up and play
The word is that Antonio Brown and Steelers president Art Rooney II will meet face-to-face in Florida this week, possibly at Brown’s home. If so, the conversation could/should go something like this.
ROONEY: Antonio, nice place you got here. Great view. Not sure if it was a good idea to throw the furniture from this high up but …
BROWN: That never happened.
ROONEY: OK, let’s move on. By the way, I like the new look. Was the blue hair and blond mustache your idea?
BROWN: None of your business.
ROONEY: You’re right. Sorry. Speaking of business, what’s this I hear about you moving on from the Steelers?
BROWN: Yeah. I think it’s time. No offense, but Ben has an owner’s mentality, and I don’t think it’s a good situation for me.
ROONEY: You do realize that you’re under contract to play for the Steelers until 2022, right? And you’re aware that we gave you a $19 million signing bonus and you’re making $17 million a year, correct?
BROWN: Yeah, but Ben …
ROONEY: Yeah, we’re gonna pay Ben at least $17 million next season, depending on the extension we’re probably going to offer him. Anyway, he made $17 million last year. That’s $34 million we’re paying you two guys. Would it be too much to ask for both of you to just shut up and play?
BROWN: Ben disrespected me. I need respect.
ROONEY: Maybe the $68 million I’ve committed to paying you should be all the respect you need. And I don’t need you tweeting pictures of yourself in a 49ers uniform.
BROWN: I think it’s time to move on.
ROONEY: That’s nice. I think it’s time for me to let you know how this is going to work. I’m the guy paying you $17 million a year. I gave you a $19 million signing bonus because I believed you were a good investment. I’m the boss. You are on the books to make $17 million if you play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. You’ve done a great job of reducing your value with your idiotic tweets. There will be no trade. If you play football next year, it will be for the Steelers and nobody else. So I suggest you show up for minicamp — and training camp — where you’ll be staying in the dormitory with everybody else, by the way. If you don’t show up for our first game, you won’t be paid. Your choice. Shut up and play for the Pittsburgh Steelers for $17 million or don’t play for anybody and make nothing. Don’t get up. I’ll see myself out.
BROWN: But my agent is Drew Rosenhaus, and he says …
ROONEY: He knows my number. Tell him to call me, and I’ll tell him what I told you. You play for the Steelers in 2019, or you don’t play and he has nothing to say about it.
Will their conversation sound anything like that? Probably not, but it should. Brown has been doing everything he can to make himself toxic to the Steelers, including putting the blame on the franchise quarterback.
The Steelers can take the easy way out and trade Brown for a second-day draft pick, who, unless he is a serious rookie of the year candidate, will have very little to do with their success in 2019. The message will have been sent to everybody on the roster and every player on every future roster that, if you don’t like the coach or the quarterback or the owner, take your complaints to Twitter, and you’ll be on another team in no time.
Steelers fans already have taken to burning Brown’s jerseys, and most will be happy to see him go but he’s an irreplaceable talent and should be catching passes from Roethlisberger again next year. Mike Tomlin should address the problem the first time the team is together and tell everybody to grow up, shut up and play.
The players should grow up, shut up and play.
Rooney should announce as soon as possible that he’s made his decision. There will be no trade, and Brown has two choices. Show up or don’t get paid. And Rooney should announce, for the sake of every football fan in North America, that he will have nothing more to say on the subject again.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.