There are a lot of people walking around the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex smiling like the Cheshire Cat.
And it’s not just because they feel like the Steelers are going to be a good team this season.
No, these ear-to-ear grins are because the Steelers have been vindicated completely in the Antonio Brown saga. The mudslinging and finger-pointing that took place as Brown was trying to force his way out of Pittsburgh led to plenty of people in the national media blaming the Steelers – and mostly quarterback Ben Roethlisberger – for what took place with Brown.
Roethlisberger was a bad leader. Coach Mike Tomlin had no control over his locker room. Blah, blah, blah, blah-bidly blah.
You heard it all.
As it turns out, Brown doesn’t want to be led. And he certainly doesn’t want to have anyone in control of him. He feels he’s above all of that.
Brown weaseled his way off another team Saturday, forcing his release by the Oakland Raiders after six months of ridiculous behavior.
Hours after that happened, he was signed by the New England Patriots to a one-year contract worth as much as $15 million. It includes a $9 million signing bonus.
So, let’s get this straight. Brown got himself traded out of Pittsburgh. Then acted ridiculously enough for the Raiders to release him without every playing a game in Oakland.
But somehow, suddenly, he’s going to walk the straight and narrow because Bill Belichick says so?
I’ll believe it when I see it.
You can’t lead people who don’t want to be led. And Brown doesn’t want to be led.
He wants to do what he wants. When he wants. And how he wants.
Brown is still a great player. That’s undeniable. But is he worth the headaches he will cause?
Two teams have already decided he is not.
The guess here is the Patriots, at some point this season, will be the third.
- Those two draft picks the Steelers got for Brown from Oakland don’t look quite so bad now. The picks, in the third and fifth round, gave the Steelers the ammunition needed to move up and select linebacker Devin Bush in the draft.
Had the Steelers simply released Brown, as some have suggested they should have done, they probably wouldn’t have Bush right now.
- One thing to keep an eye on in this weekend’s games are the holding penalties.
The NFL has asked its officials to keep a closer eye on holding in the trenches. And that showed up in Thursday night’s opener between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
The Bears were called for offensive holding only 11 times last season. That included three times all season at home. They got called for it four times in the opener at Soldier Field. The Packers were called for offensive holding four times though two were declined.
The talk of the offseason was how the league will handle challenges on pass interference plays. But an increase in holding penalties is a much bigger deal. There’s nothing that slows a game down quite like a holding penalty on the offense.
The Steelers were called for offensive holding 25 times last season. The Patriots were called 24 times.
Steelers (plus 6) at New England: This is just too big of a number for the opener. The Steelers and Patriots are both Super Bowl contenders in the AFC and without tight end Rob Gronkowski, New England doesn’t have a game-changer on offense. The Patriots’ defense is good, but the Steelers defense should be capable of slowing New England’s offense. The Patriots are 115-21 at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002, so they’ll probably win this game. But it will be close. Take the Patriots to win, but the Steelers to cover in a 20-17 loss.
Indianapolis (plus 7) at Los Angeles Chargers: The Colts have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. And the Chargers are down two key players, Pro Bowl safety Derwin James and left tackle Russell Okung. Jacoby Brissett takes over at quarterback for the Colts. And that doesn’t even factor in the Melvin Gordon holdout. Take the Chargers to win, but the Colts to cover in a 27-24 loss.
Baltimore (minus 7) at Miami: The Dolphins have ripped their roster apart in an effort to get the No. 1 pick in the draft next year. Chances are, they will succeed. They might have the least-talented roster in a long time. The Ravens should win this one going away, even in the Miami heat. Take Baltimore, 27-6.
Cleveland (minus 5 ½) vs. Tennessee: The Titans are without their best offensive lineman, Taylor Lewan, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. As we saw when the Steelers played them in the preseason, that’s a problem. The Cleveland pass rush will be an issue for the Titans and the Browns will be fired up to show off their new toys in front of their home fans and get first-year head coach Freddy Kitchens his first win. Take the Browns, 24-13
Houston (plus 7) at New Orleans: Two of the more explosive offenses will meet in Monday at the Superdome. It should be a high-scoring affair. And the Saints will probably win it in front of their home crowd. But the Texans will have enough offensive firepower to keep this one close. Take the Saints to win but the Texans to cover in a 31-27 loss.