When it comes to The Fall of the Killer B’s, perhaps no fall was more disgraceful than that of Antonio Brown. While there had been signs of tensions throughout the year, Brown reached a whole new level in the latter stages of 2018/early 2019. It is one that impacted his legacy with the Steelers and turned him from a fan favorite to one of the most hated players in the league. It all started with the drafting of JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017.
When JuJu was drafted, many thought of him as Martavis Bryant’s replacement. Martavis had been suspended multiple times due to marijuana use and he looked like a wild card. While Martavis would end up on the Raiders, he professed that JuJu was not his replacement. He said JuJu was AB’s replacement… and he was 100% right. JuJu thrived in the second half of 2017 and all of 2018, establishing himself as one of the game’s top stars. He also established himself as an extremely likable player through the #TeamFindJuJusBike campaign. All of this did not sit well with Antonio Brown, who allegedly was distraught when he found out that the 2018 Team MVP was… JuJu. This came a couple of days after JuJu had a costly fumble during Week 15 vs the Saints so it did not sit well with him. Of course, AB would end up calling out JuJu in the offseason and solidify himself as a heel in the business. It was a troubling saga anf a bad look for the All-Pro receiver, who came across as a diva and a bad teammate in the process. Still, despite his issues with JuJu, AB’s biggest issue was clearly with Big Ben.
The moment Antonio Brown agreed to appear on LeBron James’ show, “The Shop”, the world knew it was going to get some answers. And answers we got. Brown railed on Big Ben and Tomlin, saying their egos were too big and that he was the victim of the whole situation. He claimed that: “[he doesn’t] have an ego…” and that he “just wants to win.” Antonio Brown not having an ego is about as believable as Dave Gettleman being a competent GM. It just isn’t true. He’s arrived to training camp via helicopter! His ego is among the biggest in the league and there is nothing wrong with that. The fact that he wouldn’t admit to that, however, is concerning and brings into question his validity. He said that Ben is like “an owner” and that he refused to take accountability. This sounds like Big Ben, but Brown also had zero accountability. Did he do everything perfectly? No of course not, but he would not admit it. He’d rather blame the coach, Big Ben, and JuJu instead of himself. Ultimately, that is just as harmful as throwing an interception or fumbling the ball away.
The Steelers locker room was full of divas, and they have finally broken up. Bell and Brown are gone while Big Ben remains in Pittsburgh and just signed an extension. This is probably for the best. While the talent will never be the same, the egos of Big Ben, Bell, and Brown were never going to win a championship. This was a toxic relationship that had its high but was never meant to go all the way. Everybody is better off starting over in a new environment free from each other. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what if. What if they had been able to set their egos aside? What if the Pittsburgh environment wasn’t so toxic? Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, this never happened. Instead, we all got to witness the death of the Killer B’s. Mike Tomlin referred to the departures of Brown and Bell as a “cleansing”… now it’s time to see if it was for the better.