If there’s one NFL team content to leave histrionics and tantrums to others, it’s the steady Pittsburgh Steelers, whose coach’s mantra is “such is life.” Right?
Not in 2018. The latest distractions? A sideline outburst by wide receiver Antonio Brown on Sunday, followed by an odd “trade me let’s find out” tweet on Monday, which only added to the kind of drama more common to, say, the New York Jets. But Ben Roethlisberger’s offseason internal dialogue about retirement and Le’Veon Bell’s ongoing holdout make this an anything but ordinary campaign for Mike Tomlin’s 0-1-1 team that’s looking like a bit of a hot mess.
The latest episode involved Brown, who seemed upset Sunday that fellow wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Jesse James were frequent targets for Roethlisberger, who passed for 452 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-37 shootout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith-Schuster caught 13 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown while James caught five for 138 yards and a TD. Brown? He was targeted 17 times, catching nine passes for 67 yards. In two games, he has been targeted 33 times. In Sunday’s second half, he tangled with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. And in the fourth quarter, with the team trying to run a no-huddle offense, Brown took his time getting back to the line.
When Steelers players celebrated a Roethlisberger TD run that brought the team within one score of the Chiefs with just under two minutes left, Brown walked off the field by himself. After the game, Roethlisberger tried to explain whatever is going on.
“I know defenses are doing a good job of trying to take him away, doubling and putting extra people around him. So, other guys are stepping up,” he said. “Jesse James, JuJu obviously is doing some great things. I thought Switz [Ryan Switzer] did a good job tonight. I thought James Washington was making plays. So the other guys stepped up and did some good things.”
That capped a week in which Brown apologized for threatening ESPN writer Jesse Washington in a tweet about a recent story. “I made a mistake in judgment with my tweet last week, and I apologize for that,” the statement said. “It is not okay to threaten anyone and I need to be better spiritually and professionally. Though I do not agree with the negative parts of the story about my personal life, I need to have better control over my actions to use social media as a way to engage with my fans, rather than use it improperly.”
Whatever was eating at Brown on Sunday, the usually loquacious receiver wasn’t talking after the game. He left the locker room just as reporters were arriving. On Monday morning, he upped the ante, responding to the idea that he should “thank his lucky stars because he was drafted by a team that had Ben” with a five-word tweet:
“Trade me let’s find out,” he wrote.
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