Mark Madden: Steelers, Antonio Brown circus may get even crazier | TribLIVE.com
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Mark Madden
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown celebrates a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018.

Antonio Brown posted a photo-shop on Instagram that pictured him, in a San Francisco 49ers uniform, embracing all-time Niners great Jerry Rice.

Can a player be fined for tampering with himself?

Unfortunately, the 49ers lack the components to easily trade for Brown, unless they’re willing to give the Steelers the second pick in this year’s draft.

They’re not. That reality can’t be photo-shopped.

You might think Brown donning another team’s uni on the internet would spell a definite end to his time in Pittsburgh. But Brown’s a maniac who lives every second of every day indulging whims, as long as they benefit him.

If continuing to play for the Steelers would be best for Brown, he’ll do it. Wherever Brown goes, his quarterback is extremely unlikely to be better.

Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t like Brown. But Brown’s next quarterback won’t, either. That’s despite all that talent, and all those catches and yards.

The Steelers can’t trade Brown until March 13. In the interim, they’re not getting the offers they had hoped for. The Steelers want a first-round pick, and then some. But they won’t get more than a second-round pick, period.

Such disappointing potential return may make the Steelers reconsider Brown’s departure. They won’t give Brown away for the sake of getting rid of him.

Then there’s the matter of thousands of Brown No. 84 replica jerseys the Steelers will have trouble selling once Brown leaves.

That won’t decide Brown’s fate. But the Steelers are concerned. Every dollar counts. (My solution: Draft a receiver in the first round, give him No. 84 and change the name plates.)

James Harrison and Chad Ochocinco were counseling Brown. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Terrell Owens christens himself Brown’s “mentor.”

Owens, like all Brown’s other stooges, blames Roethlisberger, saying the quarterback “owes him a lot more respect,” and has “thrown him under the bus.” Owens did confirm a blowup took place between Brown and Roethlisberger at that Week 17 Wednesday walk-through and, of course, it was Roethlisberger’s fault.

Brown’s camp has done a good job villainizing Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Inaccurately so, but propaganda doesn’t rely on truth.

Brown is said to feel disrespected and underappreciated by the Steelers despite scads of team rules being bent for him. Every player (including Roethlisberger) lived in a college dorm at Steelers training camp. Brown lived off-campus in a rented house.

As for Roethlisberger’s conduct, heaven forbid Brown should be chastised when he runs a route improperly.

Did Brown think he could win a power struggle with Roethlisberger? In the middle of the latest Brown tumult, owner Art Rooney II said a contract extension for Roethlisberger was in the works. The timing of that was not coincidence. Message sent.

Some naively believe Brown leaving Pittsburgh would be enough to put the Steelers’ house in order.

ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler reports Brown was routinely late for meetings, and even cut it close on game days. It’s believed Brown ditched Week 17, a must-win game at home against Cincinnati, because he wanted to show what would happen if he wasn’t there to be double-teamed.

But Fowler talked to nearly 20 of Brown’s current and former teammates, and the undercurrent of support for him is unmistakable.

“Who gives a (expletive) if he’s 15 minutes late to a meeting?” “He’s a great teammate.” “He worked hard to have those cars.”

That last quote equates dedication and success in football to the basic notion of owning luxury automobiles. Chuck Noll used to say that all the time.

As more information leaks, coach Mike Tomlin looks weaker. He bent, but now looks broken. He was the enabler. He can’t be the fixer. But Tomlin remains employed.

It’s crazy, and may get crazier — especially if Brown ever does his “big interview.”

There are 46 days before Brown can depart. There’s no escaping the quicksand until then, and not even then. Pittsburgh will be caught in Brown’s web indefinitely.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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