“It’s all about being a champion. People remember champions who played with the Steelers. They don’t remember guys with a lot of yards and a lot of catches. They remember guys who won championships: i.e., Hines Ward, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann … ”
Those are the words of a Pittsburgh Steelers superstar seeking his first Super Bowl championship, spoken just after being named first-team All-Pro on the eve of the AFC playoffs two years ago by Antonio Brown.
To borrow a phrase from Brown, actions speak louder than words.
“What he’s chasing is a little bit of football immortality. His legacy and those things are always evolving in championships and championship play.”
Those are the words of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who won a Super Bowl before the arrival of Antonio Brown. It appears the Steelers will have to win another without Brown, who went AWOL the week of the season finale and is more likely to be traded this offseason than to ever wear a Steelers uniform again.
“When you get a chance to play in the playoffs, that’s Steelers football,and every wide receiver that has put on that Steelers jersey and made a name for themselves … did it big in playoff time. That’s what Antonio Brown is looking for, that moment to put his place up as a Steeler great in the playoffs who performs and helps his team get an opportunity to play in a Super Bowl.”
Those are the words of Santonio Holmes. Like Swann and Ward before him, Holmes is a Super Bowl MVP who will be remembered for making the greatest catch in Steelers history and arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history.
Interesting Brown-Holmes connection: Brown and Holmes have an interesting connection in team history. The Steelers traded Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets in April 2010 for a fifth-round pick, then dealt that pick to the Arizona Cardinals for cornerback Bryant McFadden and a sixth-rounder, which they used to draft Brown.
Holmes was coming off his best season, with 79 catches for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns, when the Steelers traded him just a year after his tiptoe touchdown catch against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Holmes was facing a lawsuit for a nightclub incident in Florida, was accused of telling a fan to “kill urself” on Twitter — to which he claimed his account was hacked — and a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy.
Brown also is facing a Florida lawsuit, made national headlines with his “trade me” tweet and for a speeding ticket where he was clocked driving more than 100 mph. Yet, in what could be his final game with the Steelers, Brown had 14 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns against the New Orleans Saints.
Even so, they lost the game and missed the playoffs.
“Anytime you’re a part of the Steelers organization, you understand that it’s about being a champion. It’s a championship culture, a championship-type atmosphere, a championship team. All you’ve got to do is walk in here on the second floor and you see those guys’ legacy on the wall and you see what it’s about. So being a part of it, me being here for a long time, I’m excited to have the opportunity of … that experience of hoisting a Lombardi.”
Those are the words of Brown, who isn’t just a guy with a lot of yards (11,207) and a lot of catches (837) but one who performed in the playoffs. He had 51 catches for 837 yards and four touchdowns in six postseason starts but will be remembered for not winning a Super Bowl with the Steelers.
Losing sight of Lombardi: Somewhere along the way, he lost sight of the Lombardi.
Brown also will be remembered for his locker-room live stream video, for his social-media meltdowns, for being benched for the Bengals game that had playoff implications, for missing meetings and mocking Tomlin with James Harrison and, now, smoking cigars with Chad Ochocinco. But that’s all a sideshow to a career that saw him speed to receiving records, make memorable game-winning catches and shoot to NFL superstardom.
Two years ago, Brown and the Steelers appear destined for the Super Bowl. Now, they seem to have irreconcilable differences and appear headed for a divorce. Any chance of Brown coming back to the team, to borrow a phrase from Steelers president Art Rooney II, is hard to envision.
That’s a real shame, and Brown isn’t the only one to blame.
But he knew the score all along.