As the Steelers reportedly close in on a trade that would send receiver Antonio Brown to a city other than Pittsburgh, an obvious question remains: Why are the Steelers letting Brown dictate the terms of his employment?
Drafted in 2010, Brown received a long-term deal in 2012, adjustments in 2015 and 2016 that moved future money to the present, and a big-money extension in 2017. He has pocketed more than $33 million over the last two years, and his contract covers the next three seasons.
Now, Brown wants out and the Steelers seem to be more than willing to oblige. But why? Why give a player who is under contract for the next three years the ability to force his way out of town?
Here’s an idea as to why the Steelers are giving Brown what he wants. Maybe they’re doing it because it’s also what they want. And maybe it’s what they want because one specific member of the team has decided that he no longer wants Brown around.
It’s become well documented that Brown has a problem with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. There’s a good chance Roethlisberger also has a problem with Brown. And there’s also a chance that Roethlisberger has made it known to management that either Brown goes or Ben goes.
There’s no specific evidence on which to base this theory, other than history and common sense. For example, Roethlisberger threatened to retire until the Steelers fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley. After the team finally got rid of Haley, Roethlisberger suddenly was talking about sticking around for three or more years.
Recently, Brown has periodically trolled Ben, both verbally and by using Twitter to dredge up Ben’s off-field issues from a decade ago.
It’s also clear that Ben has plenty of clout, as proven by comments from G.M. Kevin Colbert that created a controversy regarding the power Roethlisberger has to call out anyone and everyone, privately or publicly.
It’s the only explanation that would make the team’s willingness to comply with Brown’s wishes make sense. If this theory is accurate, the Steelers are complying with Roethlisberger’s wishes, making the team’s compliance with Brown’s wishes coincidental.
Again, this is merely an idea, a hypothesis. A possibility. But it’s a possibility that could be the only one that would excuse the team’s willingness to trade Brown in lieu of giving him the kind of play-for-us-or-play-for-no-one ultimatum that teams typically issue when a player decides that he doesn’t want to honor the terms of his contract.