A theory on why the Steelers seem to be so intent on trading Antonio Brown

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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.

79 responses to “A theory on why the Steelers seem to be so intent on trading Antonio Brown

  1. Or maybe they’re just sick of the chaos and they’re dumping the guys who are out of control. Teams can’t just ignore it when you call out your quarterback and coach in disrespectful ways. This is addition through subtraction. You watch, the Steelers will be a more disciplined team after this off season.

  2. Lets see, Big Ben or AB. Which one of these guys make this team go…….uhm yea, Big Ben. The Steelers will take the 1 and less distractions.

  3. That theory doesnt reconcile what happened between BR and AB in week 17. More likely, Brown decided he’d had up to his eyeballs with Roethlisberger.

  4. Let’s look at how things got to this shall we…

    Rooney is far more concerned about the whole “only 3 coaches” nonsense than he is about winning otherwise Trippin’ Tomlin would have been fired years ago. Trip lost the locker room years ago when AB clowned him on Instagram or whatever social media site it was. The Steelers have allowed the players to run the show for awhile now so long as they produce. Tomlin even made the comment to someone (I forget to whom now, but it was widely reported) that as long as AB kept putting up those numbers, he could behave any way he wanted. AB has shown time and time again that winning is not what’s important to him. We’ve all seen so many times how he pouts and argues with Ben and the coaches if he’s not getting his touches. Even in an important win. We’ve also all seen him laughing and being all smiles after devastating losses as long as his numbers are good. Let’s not forget how he quit on his team last year in a must win game all because his teammates chose JuJu as team MVP.

    Now every time Mr. Big Mouth opens his trap, he makes it harder to trade him. Why any team would want this locker room cancer and malcontent. Why would any team give up anything of value for a guy who will destroy team chemistry and be constantly in the face of the QB? I know… Some team will probably think he’s the player that will put them over the top and do something stupid. What I would love to see though is for Rooney to grow a pair and tell AB that’s he’s not going anywhere. Fine him for not showing up to OTAs. If he’s not there for game #1 take the game check and suspend him. Call his bluff to retire.

  5. I went with original recipe instead of extra crispy tonight. I messed up. Need to make these decisions right rather then rush into them.

  6. Maybe. Or maybe they suffered through a miserable year of distractions with the Bell saga last year and aren’t inclined to do so again. Seems like a fairly reasonable possibility. Certainly reasonable enough to make a demand from Ben something less than the “only” plausible explanation.

  7. I don’t think Ben said anything. Look at the results when the big superstars all act like ‘me first’ players. Put yourself in Colbert’s shoes. Are you going to put those two back in the same locker room again, and hitch your job to the chances of them getting you to the playoffs? After last year?

  8. The Steelers want AB out of town. Ben wants him gone. And millions of fans want him gone. The guy’s a pariah. Maybe the Raiders want him but will he want them when he gets pissed off again? Doubt it. AB is TO reincarnated

  9. The Steelers pay that scumbag 1 million dollars a week to do his job and his hurt feelings prevented that during a week 17 playoff push. He is a cancer that must go. It has nothing to do with the QB.

    Bell and Brown are just selfish jerks. Move on and watch them fail in their new jobs.

  10. This isn’t just a possibility/theory, this is obvious. Why would Roethlisberger let probably the best WR in the league leave if he could remotely stand him? The answer, he can’t.

  11. Last call Small Chest…you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here -Pittsburgh

  12. If true, then not surprising that the team would side with the quarterback. Maybe reflects poorly on ben for not defusing the situation. Seems like this would not have been a problem had ben kept criticism internal to team.

  13. Seems that the Steelers want to rid themselves of Antonio and before him, Bell like asap. Well do not blame them. As really need some stability in the locker room.

  14. Good theory. It’s the only explanation that makes sense of this strange saga. How soon before we see the Steelers on Hard Knocks?

  15. Not a bad theory, makes sense to me. Looks like it’s the Pittsburgh Roethlisbergers now.

  16. The Steelers and their fans have made a devil’s deal to embrace the low character Roethlisberger in return for success on the field. Now it’s time to pay up.

  17. It’s not just the team. The fans turned on Bell fast and are doing the same thing to Brown . I grew up and lived just north of Pittsburgh the Steelers fans . I am not one of them that’s for sure. Will turn on a player lighting fast but will stick by a player who wins for them to the end. A perfect example of that is all the woman Steeler fans know what Been has done to woman but they will wear his jersey proudly. He has won for them all is forgiven

  18. Though I’m not disagreeing with this theory, I have one as well.

    Antonio Brown is 31 years old. JuJu Smith-Schuster is 22. AB has 3 years left on his contract, JuJu has 2.

    The Steelers don’t have a 5th year option on JuJu, so they will want to extend him next off season.

    What happens in Pittsburgh if JuJu gets a bigger contract than AB? Same thing we see right now, but worse.

    Pittsburgh doesn’t negotiate with players with 2 years left on their contract, so no way to give AB another raise.

    So, AB throwing this tantrum has given Pittsburgh the opportunity to get rid of him now.

    His trade value would have been a lot more this year at 31 (minus the tantrum) thank it would have been next year at 32.

  19. Meanwhile Ravens Fans, Browns fans and Bengal fans are getting refills on popcorn this off-season

  20. The steelers are demonstrating they are dysfunctional, they are a throw back to the early 90s NY Jets and Cleveland Browns combo pack

  21. They have JuJu, so they get out from under AB’s contact and draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round, which they’ll have for 4 -5 years on the cheap. Despite all of the noise, this is a business move by both parties

  22. “It’s the only explanation that would make the team’s willingness to comply with Brown’s wishes make sense.“

    It’s not the only one that makes sense. It’s the only one that makes sense to you. Here is another reason that make sense as to why the Steelers are trying to trade AB, and letting him dictate terms:

    – he is caustic, no longer worth the trouble, and trading him without him being engaged will only create more problems and/or reduce his trading value.

  23. Or the fact that he’s an egomaniac only concerned with himself. Ben, as well as anyone else in that locker room, has every right to “have a problem” with this dude. Insane talent no longer worth the perpetual distractions.

  24. I’m sure Ben wants him gone. But that’s no reason to take a bad deal. Why did they even tell his agent before they inked the Bills deal? Seems like a stupid move.

  25. If true, the Steelers are giving way too much power to a player!
    It doesn’t say team, it says Ben’s way or the highway, which is why they haven’t won a title since Ben has been too big for himself.

  26. What if the reason Mr Big Chest wants out of Pittsburgh is that he’s still mad about JuJu being voted MVP by his teammates? Regardless of the reasons I find it very disturbing that two of the best players in the league wanted out of Pittsburgh. Is it all Ben’s fault? Who knows? But, I doubt it. AB has done nothing but hurt himself with his antics. He has managed to make Steeler fans dislike him more than Leveon. Considering how good AB is, and how many games he’s won for the Steelers, that’s quite the accomplishment.

  27. If Ben has a problem with Brown, then there’s a good chance a lot of other players have a problem with him too. Let him take his problem to another team. As long as it’s not mine. Or let him sit.

  28. It’s a possibility. After all the last couple of years Mr. Brown has publicly shown up Ben when he didn’t get enough attention on the field.

    Maybe Ben just got tired of it and that is when he called him out. We really don’t know what has gone on between the two out of the public eye.

    Mr. Brown has continued to run his mouth and Ben has said nothing. There are two sides to a story. We are only hearing one.

  29. OR, another theory, They want to avoid the off field circus that was last year and get back to football once the season officially starts? Hence the willingness to get rid of Brown and the unwillingness to attempt to sign Bell via the transition tag which should set his value (I still believe that value will be less than he was offered by the steelers last year.)

    There’s also reports that Ben was frustrated that Brown was taking plays off during practice. It was clear during the games that it didn’t seem Brown and Ben were on the same page on some plays, was this a result of practice laziness by one or both of them? Brown throwing a tantrum on the sidelines. IMO it all still lands on the shoulders of the HC whom has allowed the shenanigans to continue.

  30. Can you blame the Steelers…? Antonio Brown isn’t the same receiver when Big Ben is out…In fact, he’s never caught a TD from any other QB…despite having numerous chances to do so…this is why you never pay WRs…even if they’re as good as Antonio Clown…they’re only as effective as the QB throwing them the ball!

  31. Alternative theory: the Steelers saw the results of what a player, who is mad at the team, does to chemistry with Le’Veon Bell.

    1. They don’t want that again.
    2. Schuster is killing it and can step into the #1 role.
    3. The Patriots have shown them that the sin is paying too much money to aging players and hanging on to them for too long. Yes, they may have a good season elsewhere, but not three good seasons. There will be a decline.

    Taken together, you move the man and thank him for his services. drive on.

  32. That’s just dumb.

    It’s clear the organization wants him gone because he’s been extremely disruptive to the ‘Band of Brothers’ mentality that exists within the leadership of the team.

    You can trace it back to AB live streaming himself in a separate part of the locker room as Coach Tomlin was addressing the team after a playoff win over Kansas City. Ryan Clark, shortly after (on ESPN), said that AB had everybody “fooled” into thinking he was a good guy. Pretty telling coming from a guy known as one of the nicest guys ever to come through the organization (Dermontti Dawson being the standard for human beings everywhere).

    Pretty surprising stuff from Ryan until, fast-forward, AB’s sideline tantrums become a thing. Follow that up with a bunch of off-the-field issues (Miami balcony furniture tossing, excessive speeding, domestic violence, etc), a blond mustache, and an entire locker room talking about being the Kardashians and it’s not hard to see which cancer needs to be removed.

    The Rooneys have pretty much been the standard for league owners since, at the very least, the merger and have ran the organization with integrity and much success. Rooney met with AB in Miami, granted his wish to be traded (it was clear, from comments made prior, that Rooney shared that desire) and asked just one thing of AB: not to diminish his trade value until a trade had been completed. So, what does AB do? Run around doing everything he can to diminish his trade value.

    Heck, even another nice guy, Larry Fitzgerald, felt compelled to chime in with a caveat for AB.

    Now he’s dictating the terms of where he can be traded? No. He and his comical blonde mustache should be enjoying Buffalo’s nightlife (Anchor Bar or Duffs?) for the next few years while futility running routes only to look back and see Josh Allen tuck and run with the ball. In Pittsburgh we should be enjoying the sideline meltdowns as AB consistently puts up 3-16 stat lines.

    My hope is that he shuts down the only trades the team would consider forcing his return to the Steelers, him refusing to play, and then retiring from football.

    You really have to editorialize who is the problem in this scenario between Ben and AB when one of em calls himself Mr. Big Chest?

    And Todd Haley is a poor example to support the weak hypothesis. He was always a poor fit. Heck, he seems to be a poor fit everywhere he goes, doesn’t he? How’s he doing in Cleveland?

  33. Seems likely that Ben wouldn’t be the only one in the organization that felt that way.
    Maybe he’s the only one, as a future HoF’er, who has nothing to lose by putting it out there.

  34. Brown has trashed the organization, ownership, the Head Coach and the QB. No player who does that to the extent Brown has would be retained. How in the world can he walk into the locker-room next year after disappearing for several days and essentially deserting the team before their final must-win game. His supposedly went AWOL 3 times. None of his teammates will forget that, and I doubt they want that kind of guy in their 2019 locker-room.

  35. Ben probably planted the seed about AB and did what AB does and actually may make Ben look like genius. Also, Ben’s play is declining too. Albeit, not at the same level of decline as others from his draft class(ie..Manning,Rivers), but it is declining. As a giants fan I will be watching all 3 QBs comparatively right now i wish we had Rivers or Ben because they’ve seemed to have aged better than eli, but both have better GMs that know you need oline sooooo….we shall see.

  36. Get rid of Mr.Big Mouth,then trade the other cancer of the team Rothliesberger and put his successor Rudolph in. The kid is good!

  37. The case is AB wants more money, whether he has mismanaged what he currently has and needs more or just plain greed. He sees Ben getting a new deal before his contract is up and in his small mind thinks: Why can’t I get that? The fact is the qb’s salary is usually tied to the teams total cap due to the large number, so giving Ben an extension not only locks him up for the next few years but give the team needed cap relief in the future years.

    Brown is upset because he wasn’t voted team mvp to placate his ego and feels slighted because a player who is not his caliber (Schuster),the #2 receiver won the award. Yes, he has reason to be annoyed because Schuster is a good player but was also given an enormous advantage as teams schemed to stop Brown.

    Also consider the Bell fiasco and how it took its toll throughout the organization and Brown feels that he has an opening to either leverage one more payday (which he probably did and was rebuffed by Colbert) or force a trade allowing him to renegotiate his current deal.

    You have to ask when did things this year start to go south with Brown. It appeared to be in the last month as he had his spat at practice with Ben right after the announcement of the team mvp award. I think around that time Brown reached out about another deal and was denied, then the award just lit the fuse. He knew that the Steelers weren’t up to go 12 rounds after the Bell fiasco and figured if he became a big enough distraction that he would get his way.

    Here we are today. Brown is so pleased with himself knowing he has achieved his goal of getting Pitt to relent and trade him. The issue is that he thinks he can kick and scream to get everything he wants and it just doesn’t work that way. Now he feels he can dictate where he wants to go in addition to the compensation he wants. I believe that this Buffalo deal was a lot further along than people believe and that’s why Rappaport reported it. Brown blew it up because he didn’t want to look foolish playing for a young, inaccurate qb and in a cold weather city with no nightlife. Now the situation is what if he burns his last bridge and nobody wants him? Does anyone really believe he would retire when his main motivation is to get another payday? I really don’t think he would retire because the current contract with the Steelers is more money than 0 money in retirement. The ultimate conclusion to this story would be Brown coming back to the Steelers with his tail tucked between his legs because his big mouth betrayed him.

  38. For a franchise that was positively awful until 6 years in the 70’s and then pretty mediocre after that they seem to have a lot better management reputation than the deserve……

  39. If I was a Steeler player, and the QB dogged me publicly, I’d be chapped too.

  40. Mike Shereck says:
    March 9, 2019 at 3:48 am
    Maybe ben is the real issue in Pit.


    shhhhh. dont tell them. if they cant realize it on their own, then well, they get what they get. id rather they jettison every body else before they realize too late who the true cancer is.

  41. I don’t think Ben had anything to do with it. The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger won two super bowls before acquiring bot LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown, so they know what’s critical to winning Lombardi Trophies. They probably wanted to get rid of Brown a couple years ago, and now it’s just gotten out of hand. If Julian Edelman didn’t get along with Tom Brady, I don’t think Bill Belichick would have to get an ultimatum from Tom Brady. Edelman would be out the door in a minute. The Steelers have just let this thing linger, hoping it was going to go away. It just got worse and worse. When the Eagles removed LeSean McCoy and Desean Jackson from their roster, they ended up winning the super bowl, and many believed those players were the 2 best players on the roster. Philadelphia, like Pittsburgh, doesn’t give the coach all the power, so some players get out of hand. Players tend to fall in line better when the coach has the juice. Both ways work, but both ways also require a HOF QB.

  42. The Steelers also have to protect their relationships with the other teams of the NFL. They can’t set up a trade to a team that they know Brown won’t play for and not tell the partnering team. Once Brown failed to show up and then started announcing that he told the Steelers he would not play for that particular team, the other franchises of the NFL would not trust the Steelers anymore as a trade partner.
    So having Brown be part of the process helps to preserve the Steelers future ability to make trades.

  43. There are several reports out there saying Roethlisberger has attempted to call Mr Big Chest multiple times (as recently as the past 3 weeks). But Mr Big Chest won’t pick up his phone. So I don’t see this as the reason.

    I’d wager that Steelers brass knows that if they keep Mr Big Chest around, as they did with Bell this past year. And they don’t make the playoffs again with MBC being cited as the distraction (ala Bell). That heads are gonna roll as their fanbase will turn on them.

  44. The Pats fan questioning the Steelers undeserved reputation needs to revisit Deflate gate ,SpyGate and read about Asia Orchids before throwing shade at the Steelers.the Pats were a joke for 40 years until Brady and Belichick came along. Facts can hurt sometimes….right?

  45. “Recently, Brown has periodically trolled Ben, both verbally and by using Twitter to dredge up Ben’s off-field issues from a decade ago.”

    1. People don’t simply forget multiple rape accusations, one of which involved a settlement.

    2. People (ahem) still bash the Bengals for being criminals 10 years after all the stuff with Chris Henry and Odell Thurman. Even though you rarely see a Bengal get arrested anymore.

  46. The Pats fan questioning the Steelers undeserved reputation needs to revisit Deflate gate ,SpyGate and read about Asia Orchids before throwing shade at the Steelers.the Pats were a joke for 40 years until Brady and Belichick came along. Facts can hurt sometimes….right?


    well maybe 30 years ago the pats WERE a joke, but the joke is the steelers now. thats the only FACT i know. oh yea, the other fact i know is that almost the entire steel curtain was eating roids like cereal, but to an agenda driven fan, im sure you conveniently ignore that FACT as well.

  47. Ok, enough of the drama crap, this is a results driven game. Big Ben is the leader of that team, who has two weapons on his team that can score from anywhere on the field, a decent defense and how many super bowls appearances has he made
    with these weapons. Oh let’s blame the weapons, do you call that leadership?

  48. The mistake the Steelers make is allowing Ben to run this team. Anyone old enough to remember those 2 championships, remembers that Ben was a game manager back then. LeBeau’s defense and the run game carried Ben to 2 rings. Check the playoff and Super Bowl stats, kids. Now the Steelers honor his opinion like he’s some kind of hero. People act like Ben carried the Steelers to 2 rings or something, when the dude was a passenger.

    Bottom line is that it’s never cool to call out teammates in public, and Ben does it all the time. Too bad that in today’s delusional fanboy society, hardly anyone will call Ben out.

  49. Nofoolnodrool says:
    March 9, 2019 at 11:25 am
    Ignoring Deflate Gate SpyGate and Tug Gate does make the Pats less of. Joke on the ethical scale but to you that’s a musical scale right?


    The biggest joke was when an NFL head coach tripped an opposing player during a return play. There has he we been a greater in’s tan e of cheating and poor sportsmanship on display in the entire history of the NFL. Ever. It is a complete embarrassment to the Steelers and their fans.

  50. Actually the pats have been better than the steelers since 1994, years befor Brady and as least as good as them from that 6 year run until Brady.

    It’s funny that when other fans say pats fans don’t know pats history before Brady it usually means THEY don’t know anything about the nfl before Brady…….

  51. Don’t agree with this theory. Brown brought this on himself with his maniacal ego and his antics off the field like the Facebook live in the locker room that fired up the Patriots. I know he would never get away with this with the Patriots nor with Noll.

  52. Like I keep saying there’s more going on behind the scene than is being reported! We may never know exactly how deep this goes.

    And for one player(Ben) to be able to call out any other player but yet that player is supposed to just keep his mouth shut about Ben’s faults and he has many, well good luck with that in this day and age and get used to seeing this kind of thing happen a lot more!

  53. Also they should get him gone because he will just retire and then they won’t get nothing for him….

  54. “..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…”

    So in other words, you really don’t a clue if this is true or not.
    Got it.

  55. Actually the pats have been better than the steelers since 1994, years befor Brady and as least as good as them from that 6 year run until Brady.

    When was the merger? Don’t change the time frame to fit your agenda that’s childish.

  56. Why is it that hard to figure out? Brown is a diva and a cancer. Wide receivers are vastly overrated in their importance to the team. Divas like Brown think they’re just as important to the team as the QB and some think THEY made the QB ala Gregg Jennings and his crazy sister. WRs are dependent on the guy throwing them the ball and the line that gives the QB time to throw. One receiver doesn’t make the offense as there are multiple guys to throw the ball to from the WR to the TE to the RB. Any team that chooses the WR over the QB is a foolish team.

  57. People may not like Roethlisberger–neither he nor Bradshaw are particularly likeable. But he’s still a top 10 quarterback and likely Hall of Famer with a couple of good years left. The Steelers need him until they have a viable replacement. Brown is a talented receiver fast approaching the downside of his career. He’s long behaved like a diva, not caring how many 15-yard personal-foul penalties he drew for the team as long as he could do his elaborate TD celebrations. He deliberately wore non-regulation cleats, getting himself pulled from a game. He deliberately posted private locker-room talks on Facebook without the team’s knowledge. He disrupted games by throwing tantrums on the sidelines. Why is a team so intent on trading a guy who’s thrown everyone in sight under the bus? Gee, I can’t imagine.

  58. How about Brown passes Brandon Marshall before we start throwing Hall of Fame around. 34th in yards and 35th in TDs during the golden age of the passing game is not greatness.

    He is a strictly stat guy since he will get a zero on the winning and the intangibles.

    Big Chest needs to ball for 4-6 more years to even get a sniff at the Hall of Fame.

  59. I was as big an AB fan as anyone but enough is enough. This has nothing to do with Ben and everything to do with AB. AB orchestrated this whole mess and used Ben’s criticism to get what he wanted. There is no way anyone can tell me that with all the antics that AB has done that Ben’s criticism pushed him over the edge. Not buying it. He had a plan to get more money and executed it to perfection. As a Steelers fan it disgust me but from a business perspective it’s brilliant.

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