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Mack: What Pushed AB Over The Brink?

And why won't he simply take responsibility for his own actions?

Chris Mack
January 03, 2019 - 9:37 pm

It's so hard to wrap your head around why.

Since the news broke earlier this week that Antonio Brown had gone AWOL on the Steelers following a mid-practice tantrum last Wednesday, if you're like me, you've been trying to figure out just what would drive him to that kind of boldly disobedient snub of his coach, his teammates, and the organization that's given him the opportunity to become a household name.

Since AB now has accumulated quite the track record of acting impetuously, erratically, and self-centeredly, it's easy to just chalk it up to his narcissism. 

He's in love with himself and the idea that he's "the franchise," as he so boldly claimed at a training camp practice years ago, according to former Steeler safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark. 

He'd much rather have 10 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a loss than 5 catches for 75 yards and no touchdowns in a victory, as Ron Cook asserted Wednesday morning.

We've seen Brown throw water coolers, lash out on social media, call the city's most tenured football reporter a racist, and all while fending off a reckless endangerment lawsuit and navigating McKnight Road at 100 mph.

Why would we necessarily be shocked or surprised at him making it all about himself once again, just days ahead of a do or die regular season finale vs. the Bengals?

It's just what he does now, right?

Writing off AB's behavior this season, especially last week, as just the next progression of an egomaniac seems too simple to me, though.

Something had to push the normally ebullient Brown into the land of too much pressure. Something had to finally push him over the edge, right?

My co-host on The Fan Morning Show, Colin Dunlap, has theorized that perhaps the massive, concussive hit Brown suffered at the hands of Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict a few Januarys ago seemed to flip a switch. While there's some evidence that Brown started acting more unstable not long after that hit, I keep wondering if there isn't more.

Many amongst Steeler Nation, both fans and media - as well as a good number of players in the locker room at 3400 South Water Street - have theorized that the straw that broke AB's back was up-and-coming, second year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster winning the team's 2018 Most Valuable Player award last week. Where there's that much smoke, there has to be some fire, but I keep wondering. Is there more?

And right there, in Albert Breer's piece for Sports Illustrated's MMQB on Thursday, if you read between the lines, and fit the facts together in your head, the vision will materialize before you like one of those old school, stare-at-it-until-you-see-something photos at the mall.

"It's not a schooner, it's a sailboat."

Brown's fit came on Wednesday afternoon at the expense of Ben Roethlisberger, whom he reportedly threw a football at, as well as a few choice words that can't be printed here, by way of complaining about Roethlisberger's work ethic, before saying he was "done," and stalking off, apparently never to be heard from again.

Roethlisberger tried his best to diffuse the situation on his radio show Tuesday, but it might be time for all of us to see the schooner - er, um, the sailboat... whatever you want to call it - hiding in plain sight: Brown is angry at Roethlisberger as much as anyone else, and an atmosphere within the organization that, at least in AB's mind perhaps, applies a double standard to what certain players can - and cannot - get away with.

Brown isn't just mad at the world for having to come up through the incredibly hard streets of Liberty City in Miami.

He isn't just mad at the media for daring to question anything beyond his 10 million-watt smile and carefully cultivated public persona.

AB isn't just mad at the idea of JuJu stealing some of his catches, his TDs, and the team MVP award.

He's mad that Roethlisberger can have a less-than-ideal season, lead the league in red zone interceptions, and be directly responsible for at least one or two losses that could have swung the season into a postseason direction, all while calling out teammates on the radio and placing blame for for some items while eschewing blame for others.

Think back, in particular, to Roethlisberger turning a goal line interception in Denver into a problem with Brown's route running.

You think a guy who still carries the chip on his shoulder of growing up poor in Miami's worst neighborhood, at times homeless, doesn't remember what his quarterback said about him just five weeks ago?

Especially when he sees that QB's last-in/first-out schedule at the team's facility?

Again, go back to MMQB: According to Breer's sources, "Brown has explained to those close to him that he didn’t feel some of his teammates were as invested in 2018 as he was, and it was showing up in their work, and he was fed up with it."

None of this is to excuse Antonio Brown. He's acting like a petulant child who thinks he's deserving of a different set of rules than his teammates. Perhaps that's partially on Mike Tomlin for allowing that atmosphere to fester on the South Side. Perhaps it's on Roethlisberger to an extent for frequently indulging in his own set of rules. The difference is, Tomlin has a ring. Ben has two.

And neither of them had to drop $20k or have 6.5 carats sculpted into the shape of a goat. 

AB wants to blame everything on somebody else. He didn't throw those things out of his Miami apartment. He didn't know you couldn't FacebookLive in the locker room. He didn't, he didn't, he didn't. It's always someone else's fault; someone else's responsibility.

At this point though, none of that matters. Brown has blamed everyone else for all of his problems for so long now, that even as a 30-year old man, he can't take responsibility for his own actions.

It's Ben's fault.

It's the media's fault.

It's JuJu's fault.

It's Tomlin's fault.

Because it's never AB's fault. And I still can't wrap my head around how he rationalizes that.