New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) breaks up a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
When you behave like a jerk, you better be ready to ball when Sunday comes.
Antonio Brown wasn’t, and didn’t.
Brown embarrassed Steelers coach Mike Tomlin via live-casting on Facebook, but that can’t be blamed for Sunday’s lopsided loss at New England. The effect of distractions is exaggerated, and Brown doing his absolute best would not have changed the result.
But Brown had seven catches for 77 yards, with most of that meager output coming at garbage time. Brown is supposed to be “the best wide receiver in football.”
“The best wide receiver in football” does better than that.
Sure, Brown got double-covered. Name a good receiver who doesn’t. Atlanta’s Julio Jones got double-covered Sunday, and had nine catches for 180 yards. Jones ripped the NFC final to shreds. Perhaps Jones is “the best wide receiver in football.”
You don’t win championships with guys like Brown.
Brown is a constant pain in the backside. Adults would agree.
Runaway ego masquerading as “branding.” Brown’s excessive celebrations, the resulting flags and defiant attitude after. Nearly getting ejected from a game because he refused to change cleats that were improperly decorated. Lack of remorse for his Facebook shenanigans beyond what was scripted. Showing up late for that press briefing because he was getting a haircut on social media. Talk about tone deaf.
It adds up. It’s exhausting. It sucks the fun and life out of the football part.
When Tomlin discussed Brown’s live-casting – which caught Tomlin referring to the Patriots by an obscenity – he used the words “foolish,” “selfish” and “inconsiderate.”
Right on the money, though it must be said that Tomlin created a laissez-faire environment where Brown thought what he did was OK. As Julian Edelman said, that doesn’t happen in New England’s locker room.
Tomlin also noted that certain star players have bounced from team to team because they too often create distractions.
That was ominous, especially given that Tomlin never would have said that if such sentiment hadn’t trickled down from the owners. From the Rooney family. The Rooneys don't bluff.
Put yourself in Dan Rooney’s place. You’re the most respected man in the NFL, and in Pittsburgh. You’re worth $500 million, and your football team is valued at $1.9 billion. You’re 84 years old and, sadly, not long for this world.
Do you really want to spend your last days fretting about an employee who behaves idiotically and embarrasses what you’ve spent your life building?
Sure, Brown is a great receiver. Do you need him to win a Super Bowl? It sure doesn’t look like it. Brown has been in the NFL seven years and has no rings. Rooney has six Vince Lombardi Trophies. Besides getting the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh – which may yet happen – all his burning ambitions have been fulfilled.
Brown had 30 fewer catches this season. His receiving yards dropped by 550. It was Brown’s worst season since 2012.
Brown is still very good. But, at 28, is he on the decline? If Brown is fading, is he worth the trouble, never mind the money?
With just one year left on Brown’s contract, these are questions the Steelers must ask.
The Steelers can count on one thing: Brown won’t change. Why should he?
Consider the fallout of the Facebook video drama. The Steelers reportedly fined Brown $10K. But that won’t faze Brown. When the NFL docked him $24K for twerking in the end zone during the Steelers’ Oct. 2 victory over Kansas City, Brown showed zero regret: “I can’t stop having fun.”
The Steelers should have made Brown delete his social media until after the Steelers’ season was over. But they were likely afraid of his response.
So, really, Brown didn’t get punished at all.
At worst, Brown is loathsome. At best, he’s tiresome. Odell Beckham Jr. had his boat ride. Brown had his Facebook video. Each exited the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. They either learned from it, or didn’t.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).