The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. They have the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history and were a part of legendary plays like Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” in the 1972 AFC playoffs.
There is no question the team an their passionate fanbase are something special.
But in 2018, the franchise is experiencing turmoil unlike any they have endured before, and two of their top players are unhappy and want out. All-Pro running back Le’veon Bell is holding out on his contract with the Steelers and has yet to be seen this season, and now Antonio Brown — perhaps the best receiver in the league — has recently taken to Twitter to express his discomfort.
Bell has had an ongoing contract dispute with the Steelers spanning multiple seasons. In 2016, Bell found himself in the final year of his contract, expecting a max deal, given he had emerged as one of the best backs in the NFL.
The reception by the Steelers was less than warm, offering Bell a franchise tag (a contract based on the average salaries of the top three players at your position). The two sides were so far apart in their negotiations that contract talks halted entirely.
The main issue in Bell’s case is that he believes he should be one of the highest paid players in the NFL because statistically he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league. But historically, running backs have been paid less than other skill positions (quarterbacks and wide receivers) because of the high turnover and short careers of most RBs, given the pounding they go endure each week.
The Steelers think they can find equal or slightly lesser value than Bell for an astronomically lower price through the draft or free agency. For now, the Steelers believe they have found this missing piece in second year back James Connor. Whether giving up a top five player will pan out or not, Pittsburgh will have to wait and see…and so will Bell.
Antonio Brown’s skills were recently questioned by a former Steeler public relations staffer, who tweeted that Brown would not have the same success without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In response, Brown put it simply, saying, “Trade me lets find out”.
Trade me let’s find out https://t.co/4OeepI78zy
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) September 17, 2018
Clearly frustrated, Brown neglected to show up to practice Monday, calling in a “personal day.”
Brown’s agent has made attempts to cover the athlete’s questionable outburst by confirming that Brown has no interest in a trade and is only frustrated with his role on the team. Given Brown has had five straight seasons with 100 receptions or more, his role is certainly not the issue.
Bell and Brown have accounted for 95 touchdowns and over 15,000 yards combined during their tenure as Steelers. Needless to say their absence will, and already has, affected the team in the standings. Without Bell and with a frustrated Brown the Steelers are 0-1-1 with little hope for their team to turn their season around.
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement inching closer, the question will be whether the Steelers can afford to allow their best offensive weapons to leave because of money and playing time. The storied franchise may still be a powerhouse, but a cliff may be coming very soon if relations aren’t mended in the locker room.
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