The franchise unearthed a Hall of Fame talent in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and the results for both the player and the team were nothing short of phenomenal.
The seven time Pro-Bowler and four time All-Pro was perennially regarded as the premier pass-catcher in the game, and would fly off of snake-style fantasy draft boards as the first wide receiver selected.
While the glory days were something to behold for Brown in the Steel City, there were a couple events that would foreshadow his eventual demise.
After a playoff game in January 2017, the uber-talented receiver broadcast the team’s locker room celebration on Facebook Live after a playoff win.
A locker room is viewed as a bit of a sacred space amongst team members, so this social media share was a bit uncomfortable for the team.
There was also trouble afoot leading up to Pittsburgh’s Week 17 must-win game versus the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of the 2018 season.
Reports indicated that Brown refused to practice and skipped an MRI, which ultimately led to him not playing.
Since then, his career has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.
We’ll take a look at the stops Brown has made since Pittsburgh, and franchises who were rumored to have interest.
We’ll also look at why Tampa Bay was the only NFL destination that truly made sense for AB.
After the 2018 season, Pittsburgh saw the writing on the wall with regards to his tenure with the team.
There was no reason to believe his production would decline, but the contentiousness within the organization had evolved past the point of no return.
He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in March 2019, and it seemed like quarterback Derek Carr would finally have an elite weapon to work with.
But Brown never ended up playing for the Raiders.
It’s not as if Oakland’s management structure or hierarchy was that bad, but Brown just did not seem to be in a good place personally at that point.
It’s also a possibility that Brown would have gotten fed up with the Raiders’ lack of success, since the Kansas City Chiefs’ ascension to the top of the AFC was about to take off.
There was a lot of drama with Brown and the Raiders during his short time there, and the team had no choice but to release him.
At Tom Brady’s request, the New England Patriots signed the crestfallen receiver, but the marriage only lasted for one game.
Legal accusations against Brown surfaced prominently during his few days with New England, and the team could not afford to stick with him regardless of his talent.
It would have been interesting to see what could’ve happened with him had he stuck around with the Patriots, but Bill Belichick’s infamously rigid culture might have worn on Brown eventually.
— AB (@AB84) July 28, 2020
While Brown’s legal troubles were sorting themselves out, there were a few teams who showed interest in signing the game-breaking wide receiver.
For the Baltimore Ravens, bringing Brown in could’ve been a family reunion of sorts.
Antonio’s cousin is none other than Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
At the end of the day, pairing the elder Brown with young quarterback Lamar Jackson would have been tantalizing on paper.
But the Ravens offense is not predicated on high-volume passing, which may have irked Antonio had he gone there.
New Orleans would have been an intriguing destination for Brown, considering that he has blossomed with other Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Drew Brees, albeit on the decline in recent years, would have been a fun player for Brown to link up with.
The Saints would have also had an unstoppable duo at wide receiver with Brown on one side, and Michael Thomas on the other.
There’s a possibility that this could have worked out, but the recent Thomas saga in New Orleans tempers that enthusiasm a little bit.
It seems like the relationship has soured significantly in recent years, and the interaction with Brown might have also gone south after a certain point.
Before the Seattle Seahawks were able to secure and develop superstar-in-the-making D.K. Metcalf, they certainly would’ve been in the market for an upgrade at wide receiver.
Tyler Lockett has been a fixture in the Pacific Northwest for years, but we’re seeing now how much more electric Seattle’s offense can be with a legitimate home run threat.
It would have been fascinating to see whether Russell Wilson would have funneled targets Brown’s way, and how much of his act head coach Pete Carroll would tolerate.
Tampa Bay—The Logical Fit
At the end of the day though, where Brown is in his football journey appears to be right where he should be.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be the ideal situation right now for him, for several reasons.
It’s abundantly clear that he’s cognizant of remaining in Brady’s good graces, and that responsibility is applicable both on and off the field.
Since his final days in Pittsburgh, it seems like Brown’s willingness to collaborate with authority figures has diminished, but his desire to craft himself into a model citizen for the greatest quarterback of all time appears to have no limits.
Additionally, it seems like head coach Bruce Arians has been willing to give his players, including Brown, a refreshing level of autonomy.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) May 25, 2021
Arians was on the Steelers’ offensive staff while Brown was there, and was likely a little leery of bringing him into the fold.
However, that prior experience has probably helped him deal with Brown this time around.