Plenty of people have weighed in on the Antonio Brown-Steelers drama, but we might have received our best perspective Thursday.
Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison -- who rose from undrafted free agent to star contributor for Pittsburgh before he was unceremoniously released in the middle of the 2017 season -- joined NFL Network's Super Bowl Live on Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Brown and the Steelers. It sure sounds like the Brown-Steelers marriage is all but over, and per Harrison, coach Mike Tomlin is deserving of most of the blame.
"I think that only changes when you start from the top, you got to start from the top, and that starts with head coach," Harrison said of the seemingly never-ending drama coming from Pittsburgh. "He has a thing where he says, 'I'm going to treat everybody fair but I'm not going to treat everybody the same.' Your fairness may be interpreted as favoritism to other players. And the fact that you're treating everybody what you call fairly but not the same may be interpreted different by different players. And I think right now it's a combination of that going on and maybe a little bit of a lack of actual leadership. Someone that's saying it's going to be A and B to get to C."
Not a surprising take from Harrison, who was dumped after coming out of retirement to fill a need at edge rusher for the Steelers. In Pittsburgh's defense, Harrison said himself he asked to be released multiple times near the end of his time with the Steelers, primarily because they weren't playing him. But it's evident that there's some lingering dissatisfaction within Harrison, who finished the season with the New England Patriots and stuck with them through Super Bowl LII.
In fact, this doesn't seem to be about Brown at all, but Tomlin, who Harrison said in 2017 refused to grant his request for release because he wanted to protect against potential injuries. Harrison went on to say Thursday that these current issues that are now bubbling to the surface have existed for a while under Tomlin, who runs a fair-yet-unequal ship, but were hidden by a cast-iron lid called winning.
"That's what I'm trying to get people to understand. Winning covers up a lot," Harrison said. "Nobody's saying that this isn't going on. But everybody's saying it wasn't going on before.
"Maybe it was going on before. When you start losing, everybody wants to onto to something. It got to be this, got to be that. Guys missing a walk-through on a Saturday, guys being late, that has happened with a bunch of other players, different players that aren't starters, that aren't named AB, Ben, LeVeon, but its only coming out now because they're not winning."
It's long been said winning cures all. A final record of 9-6-1 (especially after Pittsburgh was 7-2-1 after 10 games) wasn't good enough to make the playoffs, meaning it's not good enough for the Steelers. Consider Tomlin's seat warm.
"I feel like he has a year and he has a chance to try and get things back to where they need to be," Harrison said of Tomlin. "But I feel like it's at that point where you're saying the same message, everyone has heard the same message, and I don't know if necessarily they're buying into the message. And I think if he can get that mended, which is going to be hard to do because now you're going to want to choke back the change on everything that you had doing on before. And that's going to be hard for players to adjust to and take.
"It's easier to let go than it is to try and say I done came in and I'm going to let you do this, Now, uh uh, I gotta pull back. That's hard."
We'll see if a change in approach can produce a different result in Pittsburgh. It sure sounds as if it's needed, no matter whether it includes Brown.