Jan 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the first half in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy football geeks masquerading as local sports media want Antonio Brown signed to a long-term, big-money deal immediately.
That’s absolute insanity.
Brown is a constant distraction. Totally selfish. His timeline of tone-deafness is well-documented. Brown’s latest faux pas: Pouting after DeAngelo Williams, not him, scored a touchdown in the AFC Championship game loss at New England, necessitating a refocusing by Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline. Baby stuff.
To paraphrase ex-Steeler Ike Taylor on the NFL Network, Roethlisberger made Brown. Plenty of Steelers receivers have come and gone, including Santonio Holmes a year after getting Super Bowl MVP. “We love you, but you can go!”
Shoeless Ike is the voice of reason. Is that what it’s come to?
I would not sign Brown to a long-term contract. If his ego and self-absorption are uncontrollable now, giving him a big pile of money won’t help.
Nor would I trade or cut Brown.
Brown has one year left on his deal. I’d make him play it out. At the end of the 2017 season, maybe Brown stays. Maybe he goes. But making him truly earn his next paycheck forces Brown to focus and fly right, or he compromises his future.
If Brown whines about his lack of security, potential future employers see that. If Brown holds out, potential future employers see that. If Brown gives less than his best effort, potential future employers see that. If Brown’s stats dip dramatically for a second straight season, potential future employers see that.
If his circus act continues, Brown sabotages himself.
Is Brown stupid enough to do that? Don’t rule out that possibility.
Roethlisberger probably isn’t retiring, not now. But it wouldn’t be shocking if the 2017 season is his last. Making Brown play out the final year of his contract is the optimum bet for giving Roethlisberger the best possible Brown to work with.
It might also relieve the pounding in Roethlisberger’s head.
Brown’s shenanigans are surely one reason Roethlisberger in threatening to quit. They’re part of coach Mike Tomlin’s general lack of locker-room control.
Brown might be OK with playing out his contract and then leaving. So what? Holmes, Mike Wallace, Plaxico Burress, etc.
Say Brown performs incredibly in 2017, and the Steelers want to keep him.
Here’s Plan B:
Le’Veon Bell presumably gets the franchise tag for 2017. If he beats the odds and avoids a drug suspension for a third straight year and couples that with an excellent, injury-free performance for the first half of the season, try to sign Bell long-term at that point. He’s been hurt and has carried a big workload, but he’s only 24.
If Bell signs an extension, the Steelers can consider franchising Brown for 2018. If Bell stays off the weed, he’s a better long-term bet. Brown is four years older.
Neither Bell nor Brown would like being jerked around, but we reap what we sow. Bell and Brown have not conducted themselves in a manner fair to the Steelers.
Plan B pits Bell against Brown, which I like. Added bonus.
If my scenarios seems a bit contrived, they’re certainly more logical than giving Brown huge dough for the long haul when there are so many legit arguments for not doing so, and alternatives that make sense.
But I don’t play fantasy football, so what could I possibly know?
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).