Mark Madden: Antonio Brown stands for nothing but himself
“And a new day will dawn for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter.”
— “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin (“Heaven,” not “seven.” That stairway collapsed.)
Does anybody remember laughter?
It’s been a while where the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned. The franchise has been buried too long under the avalanche of abject selfishness and methodical turmoil inflicted by The Toxic Twins, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. They are your overlords.
Some see the departure of The Toxic Twins as disaster. That’s understandable if you’re bound and determined to puke up fantasy stats ad nauseam.
But I told you years ago that the Steelers had zero chance to win with The Toxic Twins. At era’s end, I’m right. Like always. #SaveUs166
Blame Ben Roethlisberger if you like. But he has two rings. Roethlisberger knows how.
The Toxic Twins don’t, nor did they ever want to learn.
A new breed exists: athletes who aren’t at all concerned with winning. Money comes first, ego gratification second and anything else a distant third.
The Steelers never came close to winning with The Toxic Twins. Their “finest hour” was a 19-point loss to New England in the 2016 season’s AFC final, a game Bell tanked with a minor injury to protect his upcoming free agency,which didn’t arrive for two more years thanks to the magic of the franchise tag.
Brown, in that same game, went ballistic on the sideline after DeAngelo Williams (and not Brown) scored the Steelers’ first touchdown. Trailing 10-6, Roethlisberger and other teammates had to talk Brown off the ledge.
The Toxic Twins are gone, and good riddance.
Do the Steelers have a chance to win next season’s Super Bowl? Probably not.
Do they have a chance to win the AFC North? Borderline.
But the Steelers finally have a chance to be likeable again. A new day has dawned.
That’s unless all this stupidity happens again with different players. Art Rooney is still the owner. Mike Tomlin is still the coach. Laissez-faire means more of the same.
What can be done to seize control?
I’d start by cutting linebacker Bud Dupree.
Dupree has been openly supportive of Brown’s social media shenanigans, has underachieved for all four of his seasons and is due $9.2 million this year. Shoot a hostage. Release Dupree.
After Dupree gets his walking papers, tell JuJu Smith-Schuster he shouldn’t share every waking moment on social media. If Smith-Schuster wants to be a No. 1 receiver, he should do what the last No. 1 receiver didn’t: specifically, behave like a grown man. Dance a little less, adult a little more.
If you don’t see Smith-Schuster as potentially headed down the same path as Brown, you just don’t want to. The seed is planted.
Can Tomlin repair the situation? It’s doubtful. The enabler can’t suddenly become the fixer.
Will Brown’s departure provide a remedy? Perhaps. But that seems too simple.
Recaps of Brown’s time with the Steelers are being written and spoken all over this great nation. His ennobling nauseates.
Brown isn’t Curt Flood, Cesar Chavez or Norma Rae. He isn’t a “little guy” who bravely and smartly found a way to beat the system.
Brown is a jerk who stomped, yelled and held his breath like a 9-year-old until he got his way. He’s a multimillionaire who always wants more.
Aaron Donald held out in Los Angeles until the Rams paid him. Khalil Mack finagled his way from Oakland to Chicago. Each did so quietly and with a modicum of dignity. Bell’s protracted exit from Pittsburgh looks palatable next to Brown’s departure.
(BTW, why would the Raiders pay Brown $19.8 million per season but balk at paying Mack, who’s averaging $23.5 million per with the Bears? Even at the difference in price, the best pass rusher is much more valuable than the best receiver. Mack is 28, Brown 30.)
It will go bad in Oakland.
When Jon Gruden coached Tampa Bay, he and diva receiver Keyshawn Johnson had a huge blowup. Quarterback Derek Carr occasionally cries, perhaps because he can’t throw downfield. The Raiders will stink. Brown’s numbers will dip.
Time heals all wounds.
In this case, it shouldn’t.
The Steelers never should invite Brown back. Not to induct him into their Hall of Honor, not for any reunions, not under any circumstances. Brown intentionally embarrassed the team and maliciously drove down his trade value.
Hall of Honor? Brown has no honor.
Former and current players who salute Brown for his escape should be ashamed. Remember Week 17? Remember how Brown skipped out on his teammates when the Steelers had a chance to make the playoffs?
Those praising Brown must not remember that. Brown’s betrayal of what a football player should most hold sacred obscured anything he did, before or since, that could be deemed a righteous pursuit. Brown quit. Brown stands for nothing but himself.