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Steelers

Tim Benz: Trade Steelers' Antonio Brown? Be careful what you ask for

| Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, 9:15 p.m.
Steelers Antonio Brown warms up during practice Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018 at Saint Vincent College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers Antonio Brown warms up during practice Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018 at Saint Vincent College.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team made it an entire 14 hours without a social media firestorm.

That’s got to be pretty close to a record for this club.

Bud Dupree got into a testy Twitter exchange with a fan who was critical of his play at 9:21 pm Sunday night. The rest of the team managed to avoid kicking the online hornet’s nest all the way until 11:29 am Monday morning before making more headlines.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown got sucked into the fray at that point. Ryan Scarpino—a former media relations employee of the team — tweeted “AB needs to thank his lucky stars, because he was drafted by a team that had Ben (Roethlisberger). And Ben got AB paid. You know darn well he wouldn’t put up those numbers for other teams.”

Brown responded “Trade me Let’s find out.”

To borrow a Mike Tomlin phrase, the Steelers create social media drama with “varsity like consistency.” Now even former club employees are spoon-feeding the columnists and talk show hosts. We are getting topics more easily than the Chiefs were getting yards in the Steelers secondary.

Is Brown sincerely asking for a trade there, though? Based on his petulant behavior on the sidelines Sunday, I wouldn’t be stunned. And some Steelers fans think it’s a good idea to move Brown.

If you are someone who feels that way, I’m not going to dismiss your opinion out of hand. Of course, from a football standpoint, it’s a stupid idea. He’s an All-Pro under contract through 2021 at what has become an affordable figure of $17 million average annual value.

By the back end of the deal, Brown may be washed up. He’ll be 34 years old by then. But the hope is he still will be potent for the next year or two while Ben Roethlisberger is still a Steeler to keep the window of competitiveness open for as long as possible.

Venting, “Trade AB! Cut Le’Veon Bell! Fire Tomlin!” feels good. The Steelers are struggling. They haven’t won a game of consequence since Christmas in Houston. And the offseason has been every bit the off-field fiasco 2017 was.

But if you mean it, I get it. You’re sick of it. You are tired of the daily drama, the contract quarrels, the trade demands, the Twitter spats.

Not only is the team’s on-field performance suddenly below average, so is its Q-rating. It’s become a very difficult team to root for and like. Tickets sold or not, did you see all those empty seats and hear all those boos at Heinz Field on Sunday in the sun-splashed afternoon season opener? That atmosphere wasn’t just created by the final score, it was created by the fan-fatigue associated with this circus of a roster.

The Steelers aren’t going to trade Brown this year based off of that online exchange alone. Something cataclysmic would have to happen for that to occur. As a fan, if you are pushing for a trade as some sort of catalyst for systematic organizational change, OK. Just know what you are asking for.

At that point you might as well say, trade Bell to whoever wants his tag — even if it’s an AFC rival. Fire Tomlin and find out if the Rooney family can get a fourth coach in a row who is a Super Bowl winner.

That’s not a plan the Steelers are considering, though. And it’s not one the fan base would tolerate even if it is pretending to the contrary right now.

I say that because a large portion of this fan base doesn’t really know what a rebuild looks like. How could it after just one losing season in the entire Heinz Field era and just three since Bill Cowher took over for Chuck Noll in 1992?

Look across the parking lots at the other stadium on the North Side if you want a reminder of what a rebuild truly is. Think Steelers fans have that kind of patience?

Yeah. Neither do I.

If the Steelers deal Brown, it probably is going to be somewhere that stinks. So he better be careful about what he is wishing for.

The same can be said for those who want him traded now. Because if you are ticked off at 0-1-1, check back with me in a few months and tell me how you feel.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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