Fellow Last Word on Sports writer Ryan Seiple is correct. Antonio Brown, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the best wide receiver in the NFL. There are many other talented receivers in the league, including Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Jordy Nelson, among others, but Brown is the best of the bunch. Most of the 32 NFL general managers and head coaches would take Brown over any other receiver in the NFL. But, that being said, the Steelers should not overpay the former Central Michigan receiver.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has confirmed that the team has made extending Brown’s contract a priority this off-season. The talented wide receiver has one year remaining on a five-year, $42 million deal. The team has reportedly already engaged in active discussions with Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Brown should absolutely be a player the team wants to keep, but not if the price is too high.
Pittsburgh Steelers Should Not Overpay Antonio Brown
Other Players’ Deals
One reason the Steelers should not overpay Brown is their talented running back, Le’Veon Bell. The NFL has increasingly become more of a passing league, but Bell is vital to the Steelers success. Bell and Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson are the best overall backs in the league. Bell shows patience when running the football and can catch the ball out of the backfield better than any back in the league, except possibly Johnson.
Bell is set to hit free agency on March 9th of this year. The Steelers are expected to use the franchise tag on the talented back and if they do the two sides would have until Jul. 15 to reach a long-term deal. If no long-term contract is agreed upon by then, Bell would be paid around $11 or $12 million (average of the top five running back salaries in 2016) for the 2017 season. Another talented Steelers player set to hit the fee agent market is linebacker Lawrence Timmons. In 2016, Timmons tallied 78 tackles and 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble. The Steelers definitely want Bell long-term and probably Timmons as well. A massive contract for Brown would hinder Pittsburgh’s ability to re-sign other players like Bell and Timmons.
The Steelers were pretty good in 2016. That being said, they lost the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots mainly because of their defense. Yes, Pittsburgh put up only 17 points in that contest, but their defense allowed Tom Brady and company to score 36 points. The Steelers need help on that side of the ball so they can actually play man coverage instead of zone, when it’s dictated, like when they play the Patriots.
Brady picked apart Pittsburgh’s zone all game and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was unwilling and probably unable to change from a zone scheme because of personnel. If the Steelers want to slay the dragon in the AFC that is the Patriots they need help on the defensive side of the ball. But if they tie up too much money on offense, particularly in a wide receiver, that will handicap them when they try to shore up their defense.
Wide Receivers Don’t Win Super Bowls
Entering each season, a goal of all 32 NFL teams is to make it to and win the Super Bowl. Many times the team that wins the Super Bowl does so without a true, top flight receiver. The Patriots just won the Super Bowl with receivers like Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan catching balls from Brady. All three of those receivers are all talented, but no one would say any of them are in the top ten at their position in the NFL.
Building a team around a receiver is a mistake. NFL teams win Lombardi Trophies with great (or at least good) quarterback play, a solid, if not opportunistic defense, a balanced offense, by protecting their signal caller and making key plays when it counts, and by being disciplined. It’s very rare that having one of the best receivers in the league makes a marked difference in whether or not a team wins a Super Bowl.
If the Steelers can sign Brown to an extension that makes sense as it pertains to cap space, then by all means they should do it. He’s the best receiver in the league. But teams can find productive wide receivers in just about every draft so, as talented as Antonio Brown is, overpaying for him just doesn’t make sense.