Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo Credit: Brook Ward

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally ended the Antonio Brown saga by trading Brown to the Oakland Raiders. Adding Brown gives the Raiders a legitimate star before they move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

The Oakland Raiders finalized a deal Saturday night to acquire Antonio Brown, a soon-to-be 31-year-old wide receiver for third and fifth-round picks. The deal gives Brown a new three-year contract worth $50.125 million according to NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport. With incentives, it can go to $54.125 million, instead of the $38.925 million the Pittsburgh Steelers owed him.

Brown got him the flourishing new contract he wanted with $30.125 of that guaranteed. The new deal now makes him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.

The Antonio Brown drama is finally over

The future NFL Hall-of-Famer has not been hesitant about his desire to force a move out of Pittsburgh following an ugly and conspicuous end to the 2018 season. He reportedly took criticism from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the routes Brown had run during a loss to the Denver Broncos.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin benched Brown during the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals after Brown was uncommunicative in the final 48 hours before the game. He also walked out on his teammates before the game ended.

The former Central Michigan star displayed troublesome behavior to his coach, general manager, team owner and the rest of the organization. He condemned Roethlisberger’s “owner mentality” and criticized Tomlin for disciplining him in Week 17.

The Steelers were highly motivated to move Brown. They wanted to get a deal done before the March 13th start of free agency. If no agreement was completed, they were obligated to pay Brown a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17.

How can the Steelers take advantage of the draft picks they acquired in the trade?

In trading their seven-time Pro Bowler, Pittsburgh acquired a 2019 third round pick and a 2019 fifth round pick. The extra third rounder could allow the Steelers to possibly move up in the upcoming NFL Draft. The acquisition of the fifth round pick replaces the one they lost when they previously traded with the Raiders for receiver Ryan Switzer.

However, the most significant development of this trade was the salary cap impact.  According to Pro Football Talk, in regards to their 2019 cap space, $21.12 million of it will be devoted to Brown.

Currently, the Steelers will save more than $15 million in cash, which can go into investing into free agents. The parting of the ways was necessary. There was no way that Brown could go back into that Pittsburgh locker room.

What will the Steelers offense look like without Antonio Brown?

The loss of Brown leaves a gigantic hole in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. In nine seasons in Pittsburgh, he accumulated more than 100 catches in a season six times. He also put up seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

As I mentioned in The end of the Killer Bees era, every weapon in the offense benefited from the presence of Brown. He commanded the attention of opposing defenses. Will second-year JuJu Smith-Schuster be able to handle everything without Brown? Look for the Steelers to sign or draft a wide receiver to provide Roethlisberger with another weapon.

The running game with James Connor also profited by the presence of Brown. Connor is a power back that still displays pass-catching ability but not game-breaking potential.

The Steelers offense will be more methodical. They will need to acquire more polished weapons around Roethlisberger as their championship window is closing soon.

How does Antonio Brown fit in with the Oakland Raiders?

The Brown deal comes just days after talks between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills broke down, per Pro Football Talk.

Brown’s value was considerably less than what the Raiders received from the Dallas Cowboys for Amari Cooper last season. The Cowboys sent a first-round pick to Oakland for the former Crimson Tide receiver.

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has always loved Brown from his time as a broadcaster. He praised for the receiver before the teams played last December at a news conference:

‘‘He’s the hardest working man, I think, in football. Hardest working player I’ve ever seen practice. I’ve seen Jerry Rice, I’ve seen a lot of good ones, but I put Antonio Brown at the top. If there are any young wideouts out there, I’d go watch him practice. You figure out yourself why he’s such a good player.’’

Gruden has had conflicts with his quarterback, Derek Carr. Gruden also discarded all-world edge rusher Khalil Mack and traded away their biggest offensive weapon in Cooper.

The Raiders need improvements throughout their roster. With the massive amount of acquired draft picks, Gruden and the Raiders can drastically upgrade their roster. Carr needs a go-to option. His best option last season was receiver Jordy Nelson, who had just 63 catches for 739 yards.

A happy Brown will be highly motivated to show that he is capable of carrying the Raiders. He was much delighted with the move to Oakland as he posted a picture of himself in a Raiders uniform on his Twitter account.

Final Thoughts

The Steelers had no choice but to get what they could for their elite wide receiver. The Raiders received a discount in acquiring the perennial NFL Pro Bowler.

That said, how long before Brown displays his poor attitude toward Gruden? Look for more drama to occur in the Bay Area as Gruden rubs lots of players the wrong way. Brown is a hard worker, but he has an immense ego that needs continually fed. Carr is not the most accurate quarterback, and Brown will miss the days of Roethlisberger throwing him passes. Let the soap opera with the Raiders begin.