A Look at Antonio Brown’s Villainy

Marky Billson
4 min readMar 7, 2019


Pittsburgh Steelers’ star has made himself out to be the bad guy. But he’s not the only one.

Tri-Cities based sports talk show host Marky Billson

The Antonio Brown situation has become boorish. A drama where the onlooker is forced to take sides that involve unlikable people at every angle.

There’s Brown, whose image has become the latest example of the modern day “Me First” athlete.

There’s the quarterback he has a problem with, Ben Roethlisberger, who has a history of arrogance himself and is best remembered for two women accusing him of rape, even if criminal charges were never brought.

There’s the head coach, Mike Tomlin, who allegedly told reporters Brown had a knee injury during a week in which he was skipping practices when, according to veteran Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat reporters Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac, Brown was skipping the practices because of a beef with an unspecified teammate the NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala later reported was Roethlisberger. Brown was then benched for the Steelers’ must-win season finale against Cincinnati.

Plain and simple, Tomlin was lying.

It’s a great story. It’s just that’s it’s like Breaking Bad. There isn’t a single likable character in it.

There’s been a feeling with Brown repeatedly calling out a bad environment situation he’s the bad guy. After all, he wants to leave a good thing in Pittsburgh, he’s whining, he’s NOT EVEN SHOWING UP!

In what will likely be his final game as a Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Antonio Brown caught 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns at New Orleans.

And frankly, as far as Brown’s statements concerning Roethlisberger is like the “owner” of the Pittsburgh Steelers; that’s a quarterback in the National Football League. A wide receiver, even one with Canton credentials like Brown, is expendable if it comes to “me or him,” especially on a team where Ju Ju Smith-Schuster has emerged as a breakaway threat.

It’s easier for Brown to be replaced with a first round draft choice or second-year receiver James Washington, who averaged more than 20 yards a catch at the end of the 2018 season, than it is for Josh Dobbs or Mason Rudolph to replace Roethlisberger.

That’s just reality. That’s why it’s acceptable, even if it is unfair, for Roethlisberger to call out Brown’s route running publicly but not acceptable for Brown to speak up.

To get what he wants, Brown feels he must press the issue. Hence to keep his star power up, he appears on Lebron James’ The Shop to get a sympathetic ear and enhance his brand.

Doubling down on perceived selfishness? Perhaps. But keeping himself in the public is important after Brown confronted Bouchette, often touted as the best beat reporter in the NFL and a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, as “racist.”

Bouchette isn’t. And it’s not wise to go after the media.

Regardless, despite the motivation to put all the blame on Brown for being selfish, he does have a point. Roethlisberger’s relationship with his receivers has not always been great; Hines Ward, for instance, was not a fan.

And Brown isn’t even the only All-Pro skill player to want to leave the Steelers this year, witness Le’Veon Bell. What kind of environment has been allowed to fester under Tomlin?

It’s believed a trade will be announced for Brown by the end of the week, since meetings have taken place at the NFL Combine, though by league rules such a trade can’t be officially made until next week. The Tennessee Titans have been reported as a potential suitor, and frankly the Titans may offer more upside potential than any other team Brown could go to.

Some reports have the Steelers weighing a second round draft choice for Brown, which would be a steal for whatever team gets him. Brown will want his contract, which will cost the Steelers more than $21 million in salary cap space after a deal is made, restructured as it is not guaranteed for its remaining three seasons.

How Brown’s new team handles this request will likely determine his behavior.

How would Brown potentially do as a Titan? Mike Vrabel played for Bill Belichick, who had no problem focusing former Steelers “divas” such as James Harrison and LeGarrette Blount in to players that helped New England go to the Super Bowl.

But the real story is what direction the Pittsburgh Steelers will take from here on out. Without Bell last season, they went from 13–3 to missing the playoffs.

Without Brown and Bell, can the Steelers realistically be the “primary threat” to the Patriot dynasty they have been for so long?

Or was Brown’s complaining actually the flashing red light the Steelers are a cliquey sinking ship on South Water Street?

Marky Billson covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat in 2003. Today he’s a sports talk show host, and his show can be seen live 12–2 p.m. ET weekdays or archived here.



Marky Billson

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