Has Antonio Brown’s hold out alienated Steelers fans?

The Steelers fanbase has not responded well to disgruntled receivers in the past.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

By Tony Defeo

As per several news outlets, Antonio Brown, the Steelers highly-decorated wide-receiver and arguably the best in the game at the moment, is seeking a new contract. Not only that, he’s also seriously contemplating skipping off-season workout programs—both voluntary and mandatory—in-order to show Pittsburgh’s front-office that he means business.

As you might expect, this has caused quite a stir among Steelers fans. And if you know Steelers fans and their attitude toward such things, you can probably guess the news hasn’t exactly been met with celebratory dances on-par with what No. 84 would normally perform after one of his stellar touchdowns.

In-fact, “Way to be a p*** Antonio Brown,” was the Facebook quote from Monday that alerted me to the receiver’s possible negotiation tactics.

Shortly before the 2012 season, heading into just his third NFL campaign, Brown was rewarded with a five year, $42.5 million contract extension through 2017. Coming off his first Pro Bowl year in 2011, in-which he eventually overtook the legendary Hines Ward in the starting lineup, that deal made sense then, as it was based more on potential and locking up a young player long-term. Also, with Mike Wallace, the team’s top receiver at the time, skipping out on off-season activities as a way to gain a new deal, the move to sign Brown was also seen as a signal that Pittsburgh would be casting its lot with No. 84 and, from that point forward, did very little to work things out with Wallace, who signed a lucrative deal with the Dolphins after the ’12 season.

Speaking of that 2012 campaign and Wallace’s decision to hold-out of most off-season activities, man was it contentious—at least in-terms of how the fans reacted. Wallace went from being celebrated in 2011 as the best deep threat in the NFL, to being vilified in 2012 and labeled as a “one-trick pony” whose only real talent was going deep. Wallace led the Steelers with 836 yards and eight touchdown catches that season, but every drop was scrutinized, and he was even taken to task on a repeated-basis for not breaking up any interception where he was even remotely the target.

Needless to say, when Wallace skipped town in March of 2013, very few tears were shed in Pittsburgh, and he’s still one of the most hated ex-Steelers in recent memory.

Will it get that ugly for Brown, one of the most popular and beloved of the team’s current players? It doesn’t take much these days to get fans riled up, and, specifically, as it pertains to Brown’s latest demands, it doesn’t take much Internet searching to find comments such as “Trade him,” “Young Money still lives,” and “Ship him off for a No. 1 pick and move Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant up the depth chart.”

The decision for Brown to seek a new deal is rather unprecedented, as he still has three years remaining on his current contract. That said, in-terms of his production, one might say he’s underpaid. Despite being at the top of the receiver food-chain the past two seasons in-terms of receptions (239) and yardage (3,190), Brown is currently the 14th highest-paid wide-out in the NFL.

So, does Brown deserve a new deal? It’s clearly a two-sided argument, as both the player and the team will have valid-points when and if they decide to sit down and talk. However, in-terms of public perception, things are already getting ugly for Brown, and they could get even uglier if he misses even one minute of a voluntary workout.

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