The latest former Steeler to chime in on the Antonio Brown situation is fellow receiver and 2010 draft classmate Emmanuel Sanders.
You know, the other “dog” in that “two dogs, one bone” scenario Mike Tomlin created in their rookie year.
Sanders — now a Denver Bronco — was on the NFL Network on Saturday. He was highly critical of Brown.
And Mike Tomlin.
And Ben Roethlisberger. Again.
How does the AB situation play out in Pittsburgh?
Our crew looked at it from all angles ⬇️
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 12, 2019
When Sanders said, “it all sounds familiar,” that was telling. Sanders is basically saying that he’s seen this act from Brown before.
Plus, he’s right about sensing the end of Brown’s time here in Pittsburgh based on the fact that Art Rooney II was so upset over what took place that he actually made comments on the record.
As Sanders summed up, “When (Rooney) says something, he means it.”
Rooney is fed up and angered. He should be. Because, as Sanders put it, going AWOL for three days then having your agent try to get you into the lineup “is the ultimate disrespect to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.”
Remember, the Steelers essentially let Sanders get to free agency because they chose to pay Brown long-term instead. You can tell that decision still resonates with Sanders.
“Antonio brought it on himself,” Sanders said. “You cannot turn your back on you brothers and the organization who gave you an opportunity to make you who you are as a football player.”
But in the same breath, Sanders played to the camera and said, “I’m here with the Broncos. So, what’s up, A.B?”
So, I guess Sanders thinks Brown is suddenly going straighten up and fly right if he were to go to Denver?
Yeah. Right. Like, A.B. would listen to Vic Fangio and Case Keenum as opposed to Tomlin and Roethlisberger.
Sanders was also on point in two other instances.
First, he criticized Tomlin for giving Brown “way too much leeway” and allowing him on the sideline during the Week 17 game in — as Sanders reminded us — “that fur coat.”
Next, he pontificated that Roethlisberger’s radio-show comments about Brown’s bad route in the end zone on the game-losing interception in Denver, as well as the corresponding remark saying he would’ve preferred to throw the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster four times in a row, exacerbated the situation.
I agree with Sanders about that specific angle. Roethlisberger’s statements probably did anger Brown.
However, suggesting that Roethlisberger’s leadership skills are somehow to blame for Brown’s behavior is weak. That’s blame-shifting.
Granted, Roethlisberger is guilty of blame-shifting to others at times. But Brown being a jerk is not a result of the quarterback being full of himself. Brown would still be a jerk even if his quarterback was the nicest guy in the world.
This is where Sanders lost me during the program. He then patted himself on the back for making comments in 2014 that Peyton Manning, his Broncos QB at the time, was a “better leader” than Roethlisberger. Ironically, Brown lashed back at Sanders louder than anyone after Sanders made that proclamation. Sanders then walked it back, claiming he was just trying to compliment Manning and wasn’t being critical of Roethlisberger.
On Saturday, though, Sanders was singing a different tune. It sounded like “I told you so.”
“My comments when I first became a Denver Bronco,” Sanders continued, “All that now is coming to fruition. I don’t lie. I don’t hate anybody. I just speak the truth. And that’s the truth.”
It seems Sanders only wants those comments to resonate as loudly as the mood of the moment suggests that they should.
Funny how no one was referencing Sanders’ leadership comments the week before that game in Denver when Roethlisberger plowed his way into the end zone to win a game against the Jaguars in the closing moments.
In short, everything Sanders said about Brown is right. Everything he said about Tomlin enabling Brown is right. Even some of his complaints about Roethlisberger are right.
Heck, I wrote many of the same thoughts on Big Ben last week.
But conflating Roethlisberger’s shortcomings with the circumstances of this Brown situation is wrong. A lot of people are doing it. And it needs to stop.
Roethlisberger’s personality and his leadership style are worth criticizing. However, using him as a tool to deflect blame from Brown is counterproductive and inaccurate.
Brown is at fault. Blame should end there.