The Steelers traded Antonio Brown, and they lost Le'Veon Bell in free agency. Neither divorce was amicable.
Whether the Steelers are “better off” is yet to be determined, but at least one fact is undeniable: The two playmakers contributed a combined 2,409 touches for 19,322 yards and 116 touchdowns in their years in Pittsburgh.
“I think it has been highly chronicled, and I think it has been too chronicled,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Monday, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com. “Some things have been said that may or may not have been true. All I know is neither one of those guys are members of our team anymore.
“Relationships run their course, and the fact that neither one of them are here speaks to that.”
Tomlin said “there’s too much talk” about the players’ departures but understands winning football games is the only way to end that.
On March 10, the Steelers agreed to send Brown to the Raiders for third- and fifth-round picks. That seems hardly enough for one of the best players in football as the Pro Bowl receiver contributed 11,207 receiving yards and 74 touchdowns in his nine seasons in Pittsburgh.
But all good things must end, and after last season, Brown was ready for a new employer, and the Steelers were ready to be rid of the drama.
“We can’t do this with hostages, man. We need volunteers,” Tomlin said. “We need good players, good guys who want to be here and if guys can’t check those boxes, it’s probably best for all parties involved to go our separate ways.”
Brown complained often and loudly in the offseason about a lack of respect from the Steelers. Tomlin was asked about the belief that he treated Brown differently, which led to at least part of the fissure.
“I don’t know in what ways you are referring, but certainly I treat people fairly,” Tomlin said. “I don’t aspire to treat everybody exactly the same. That’s just the reality of how I function.”