Why Steelers Fans Should be Outraged
If I’m a Steelers fan today, I’m frustrated, angry, and upset. Folks following the NFL closely knew that the Antonio Brown situation had escalated to the point that he was going to be traded by the organization. The expected return for arguably the best receiver in the league varied depending on which person you talked to, but it ranged from a first-round pick to a third-round pick plus additional compensation. When the news broke that he was traded to the Raiders- who have four of the first thirty-five picks in the upcoming draft- the feeling was that it would be for one of the Raiders’ three first-rounders. Then it came out that first-time General Manager Mike Mayock managed to pry Brown away for measly third and fifth round selections. The consensus around the league was that Brown had won, gotten his way and beaten the league. In a sport where nothing is ever certain and the owners hold all the power, a player was able to force his way into a situation more favorable to himself.
The main issue for Brown was the fact that he had zero guaranteed dollars left on his deal (3 years, $38 million remaining), which meant that if he didn’t perform up to the expectations of the team, he could be cut and they wouldn’t have to pay him anything, even if it meant they had to absorb a significant cap hit there would be no “real” money involved. The Raiders obliged, giving Brown a 3 year, $50.125 million deal with all but $20 million guaranteed. The Raiders definitely lived up to the spirit of their organization, plundering their longtime rival Steelers of a large portion of their remaining treasure after the unceremonious departure of Le’Veon Bell. Granted they still have Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but only time will tell if they are as effective without Brown.
That’s the first reason Steelers fans should be upset. Next is the trade of Odell Beckham, Jr. from the Giants to the Browns, the Steelers oldest in-division foes. Not only did the Browns become significantly better by adding a top-tier receiver (who just signed a new contract less than two weeks ago), they aren’t on the hook for the $20 million signing bonus he got (the Giants paid that), the Giants also received a compensation package that most folks believed the Steelers would get for Brown. Cleveland sent their first round pick (17 overall) and a third-rounder (95th overall) as well as Jabrill Peppers (who will immediately slot into the safety spot recently vacated by Landon Collins as he left for Washington). That’s reason number two.
Reason number three occurred right after the OBJ news broke. Le’Veon Bell signed with the Jets for 4 years, $52.5 million, an average annual value of just over $13 million. This situation is fascinating to me because both Bell and Brown approached their situations differently. They both wanted more money, they both wanted it to be guaranteed. Both had baggage, but they went in different directions with their new franchises. While Brown not only got a raise, he received over $30 million in guaranteed money. Le’Veon refused to sign the franchise tag the Steelers placed upon him last year which would have netted him $14.5 million, opting instead to sit out the entire season. This clearly hurt his value, as he was looking for a deal similar to what the top wide receivers get- somewhere in the neighborhood of $17 million and 5+ years. After all, he’s only 26 years old. But alas, no. Granted, he does have $35 million guaranteed, but it’s a far cry from the say 5 year, $70 million with $50 million guaranteed some thought he would fetch. Even Todd Gurley of the Rams got a better deal (4 years, $57.5 million, $21 million signing bonus, $45 guaranteed) and it was thought that Bell would reset the market for running backs. He is considered to be the top at his position, ahead of Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys, and Alvin Kamara of the Saints, who are all similar players in that they are a threat running the ball or catching passes.
Bell might not have gotten what he wanted, but he got a lot more of what he wanted than the Steelers did. They lost two of their top players for almost nothing and they seem to have been passed by, at least on paper, by their most hated rivals. Not to mention that the General Manager Kevin Colbert came out and Backed his quarterback by saying “He has 52 kids under him, quite honestly.” That’s a great way to not only insult almost all of your roster by referring to grown men as children but to also give your quarterback carte blanche to say and do whatever he wants without fear of criticism or reprisal. It also puts your coach Mike Tomlin in a terrible position because if he says or does something that displeases Roethlisberger, Ben can just go behind his back to the GM – who outranks the coach – and complain, and expect Colbert to side with him against Tomlin.
The Steelers are a mess today. Only time will tell if they are able to clean things up and return to the perennial playoff contender they’re expected to be, but if I’m a fan in Pittsburgh, I’m really not happy with what’s going on.