Steelers fans, say goodbye to Antonio Brown


Michael Rand/Star Tribune/TNS

COLIN HORNING, Sports Writer

The relationship between star wide receiver Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers front office has grown fragile in recent months.

The disgruntled All-Pro pass-catcher and Steelers owner, Art Rooney II, met on Tuesday to discuss Brown’s future with the team, with Brown later posting on Twitter that the two sides “cleared the air on several issues,” and that they “both agreed it is time to move on.”

This is a chance for the Steelers as an organization to hit the reset button on a very disappointing season in 2018.

Tension between the organization and its star players started before the season even began, with running back Le’Veon Bell opting to sit out the entire season due to a contract holdout.

Despite missing arguably the NFL’s top tailback, Pittsburgh was sitting with a record of 7-2-1 and were looking like a real threat in the AFC through week 11. However, they lost four of their final six matchups and ended up losing the division to rival Baltimore and missed the playoffs altogether.

It later came out after the season that Antonio Brown, as well as other Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin, had different views in the direction of the team. Locker room toxicity like this needs to be solved as soon as possible before it harms the team any more.

Should it remain unchecked, it is possible that more franchise cornerstones, along with members of the coaching staff, could wind up leaving the storied franchise.

Although many Steelers fans would initially balk at the idea of trading one of the best offensive talents in today’s NFL like Brown, it should be treated as an opportunity for the team to re-tool and to forget about their dismal past season. The relationship between Brown and the front office is obviously beyond repair, as indicated by Brown’s social media antics.

On top of that, the Steelers have an aging quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who likely does not have many years of top-tier play left in him. They also have a coach who has clearly lost the faith in some of the organization’s top players, like Bell and Brown.

This situation with Brown is a wake-up call for Pittsburgh: They need to rid themselves of Brown and receive draft picks along with young talent in return as a way to put last season behind them and stay competitive for as long as possible while Roethlisberger is still a force in the league.

The AFC North appears to be wide open next season with no clear favorite. Baltimore recently traded quarterback Joe Flacco and will be relying on Lamar Jackson, which some might see as a risky move, Cleveland is improving but still not a sure thing and Cincinnati will probably be in rebuild mode for the next few seasons.

If the Steelers want to return to the top of their division and the AFC, they need to rid themselves of the recent locker room headaches, acquire new pieces for next season and get the most out of their current core of stars.