14 Aug

Antonio Brown’s departure from Steelers erased all evidence of his wonderful Pittsburgh years

first_imgMany journalists and analysts acclaimed Brown’s ingenuity after he quit on the Steelers in week 17 of last year, missing the season-ending game with the Bengals but winding up with a contract from the Raiders guaranteeing him more than $30 million. A few others applauded his genius in forcing his way out of Oakland — skipping much of training camp and then allegedly threatening his boss — and onto the roster of the reigning Super Bowl-champion Patriots, despite the millions Brown left behind.He is grieving on multiple fronts to collect payments from those teams, but the Steelers’ only financial residue from their association with AB is the salary-cap hit of more than $21 million.MORE: Explaining Brown’s grievance vs. Patriots Brown may not care, but he forfeited a lifetime of glory in forcing his way out of Pittsburgh. Harris still is doing television commercials in the region for United Heath. Jerome Bettis has a weekly show on WPXI. Rocky Bleier is rotating through the role of court martial judge in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s stirring production of Aaron Sorkin’s classic play, “A Few Good Men” – and when Bleier declares near the close of the first act that the “DEE-fense” should be ready to present its case, one can feel the electricity sweep across the audience.Ward returned Monday night for his Hall of Honor induction and drew the loudest ovation from the Heinz Field spectators — significantly more decibels, even, than local native and Super Bowl-champion coach Bill Cowher.Brown punted this sort of wonderful life, opting instead for the current chaos that has consumed his brilliant career. Every time another Steeler catches a pass, it surely has to sting. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/cc/34/antonio-brown-091818-getty-ftrjpg_31ub5vb2tsmo1ni3xkzk7have.jpg?t=-294867611&w=500&quality=80 PITTSBURGH — Attending a Steelers game in the 2019 season is a lot like wandering into a perverse remake of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”What would the NFL be like if Antonio Brown had never been a Steeler?center_img Like this, obviously.Among the fans approaching Heinz Field on Monday night and those who were in attendance for Pittsburgh’s 27-3 destruction of Cincinnati, there almost was no evidence he had ever been the most gifted wideout in the team’s illustrious history. On the facing in the West end zone are the names of Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Buddy Dial and, now, Hines Ward, all receivers enshrined in the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor. Between 2010 and 2018, Brown was better than all of them. Now, he is erased.MORE: What to know about lawsuit against BrownIn some NFL cities, one can attend a game and notice the same one or two players featured on every fan who wears a numbered jersey. At Steelers-Bengals, I observed fans wearing the shirts of more than 25 different players, from the established icon (injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) to the rising star (linebacker T.J. Watt) to the hot, new rookie (linebacker Devin Bush), from the Hall of Fame legends (Bradshaw, Harris, Greene) to the idols of more recent vintage (Polamalu, Ward) to the obscure surprises (Eric Pegram, Charlie Batch).There were even one or two still bold enough to sport the No. 26 with Le’Veon Bell’s last name across the back shoulders.But not a single No. 84 Antonio Brown jersey anywhere. He was a Steeler as recently as 10 months ago, and now his memory is expunged, like George Bailey when he is given a tour of once-quaint Bedford Falls now morphed into a dump called Pottersville.Some AB jerseys were burned, others donated. None is worn.MORE: The story of Brown’s wild Raiders releaseThere were only a few sartorial items on a football Monday that served as reminders of what Brown had been: deeply discounted No. 84 Steelers jerseys, as low as $20 each; a T-shirt on a stand outside one of the many sports-gear shops in the city’s Strip District that imposed a red “Going Out Of Business” tag over Brown’s old “Business Is Boomin'” catch phrase; and another worn by at least two fans outside Heinz Field with profane “F— AB” on the front and a nearly as profane “A— 84” on the back, all done up in black and gold.He is still a subject in the media. On Wednesday, radio station 93.7 The Fan conducted a poll asking if Steelers fans would welcome back Brown if he agreed to play for the NFL minimum salary; 82 percent said they would not.Which begged the question: Where’d they find the other 18 percent? There was, as well, the Steelers’ passing game, which is a ghost of what it was during the five consecutive seasons in which Brown caught at least 100 passes. An enormous part of that difference involves the absence of Roethlisberger, recovering from an elbow injury and subsequent surgery.But just as George’s imagined absence left Mary to life as an “old-maid” librarian, Violet to a descent into prostitution and Martini’s from a friendly neighborhood bar to a place where hoods drink “hard liquor to get drunk fast,” the removal of Brown from the Steelers’ arsenal of offensive weapons had an inevitable impact. It is more difficult for gifted young possession receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to avoid double-teaming defenses. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has been conservative enough with Roethlisberger’s replacement, Mason Rudolph, to qualify for a role in the Trump administration.Even at that, rookie Diontae Johnson has caught two more long touchdowns in the past couple weeks than Brown, who is out of football.last_img

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