PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – In some regard, the Steelers’ way of doing business is enlightening. An old-school handshake-and-a-promise, the same way people with the surname Rooney did it way back when the North Shore was simply the North Side (or ‘Nor-side) and streetcars buzzed around.
Simple and unpretentious, yet with a deep sense of purpose and commitment, much the way we like to fashion ourselves as Pittsburghers.
But, in another regard, the way the Steelers do business has become antiquated and antediluvian, better suited for a time in the past and destined to hurt the franchise if it isn’t met with a tinker or two.
On Wednesday afternoon we were greeted with the news that all-everything wide receiver Antonio Brown had his 2016 salary restructured. The team, in essence, moved $4 million it owed Brown from the 2017 season to wages for this season and Brown will now earn about $10.25 million this year, more commensurate with his talents than the figure he was due to make before the fidgeting.
This is all in the aftermath of Brown inking that five-year, $43 million deal before the 2012 season when just about no one could have predicted the sixth rounder would skyrocket to the best receiver in the game.
Because of his ability to outperform his deal, this is now the second time Brown has been advanced a sum of money, having been fronted $2 million before last season.
These annual restructurings have become commonplace for the Steelers because they wobble on that line of doing business in a way that is outdated. As has been repeated many times, the Steelers simply will not renegotiate with a player — who isn’t a starting quarterback — until he is headed into the final season of his deal, no matter how much he has outperformed it.
This hasn’t really burned the franchise to this point, but to me, it’s a case of being old-school just for the sake of being old-school. It’s hanging onto a small piece of the old ‘Steeler Way’ for the sake (and nothing more) of being able to say, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s incredibly hard to be critical of the Steelers in this realm, because things have worked out in their favor and, again, they haven’t been burned by this tactic, however archaic it seems. There’s not a whole lot of reason to believe Brown will be the guy who this changes with, either, as he appears happy as can be here in Pittsburgh.
There will come a time, however (and maybe not in the too distant future) where negotiations will hit an impasse with some star where it will grow extremely contentious if they can’t get a long-term deal; where that star will harbor ill-will and hold a grudge. Yes, where a simple advancement of funds isn’t good enough for the player and they are hellbent on getting a new deal and not waiting until when their old contract is almost up.
I don’t know when it will happen, but it seems obvious at some point it is unavoidable. I just wonder if the Steelers will refuse to budge on this old-school business style forever.
Who knows when that day will come, but I’m intrigued to see what happens when it does.
I do know what day is coming for sure, however. Antonio Brown’s contract runs through the 2017 season and he will command premium cash; he will almost-certainly mandate that he’s paid higher than any other receiver in the NFL.
That will be the time to see if the Steelers are truly ready to pony up.
If they are unwilling to make Brown the richest receiver in the game, unquestionably another team will.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.