Mike Tomlin shoots down Antonio Brown’s return for Steelers

Antonio Brown burned every bridge in sight upon his departure from the Pittsburgh Steelers, but could a return to the team be feasible for one of the NFL’s most volatile players?

Mike Tomlin doesn’t hold his breath.

The Pittsburgh Steelers discussed his former wide receiver and more during an appearance on The Pivot Podcast. When asked about the possibility of Brown returning to Pittsburgh, Tomlin was blunt:

“You all know that doesn’t happen.”

Tomlin appeared to concede that Brown could sign a one-day deal to retire a Steeler, but shot down any ideas that he could be clad in black and yellow again:

“In terms of putting on a helmet and running out of the tunnel and playing ball and stuff like that, man, he moved on, we moved on. We can sit around and chop this up and pretend it’s realistic conversation. but we all know that’s not realistic, man.

“What I’m going to say about AB is this, man. We had nine great years. I appreciate this guy in a way that I can’t explain to all of you. I’m not even going to try to explain that to you all because it sounds like I’m kind of defending him, and from that standpoint the nature of our relationship and what we’ve all done together doesn’t call for a defense. You can digest it how you want to digest it. [Tomlin blows a kiss.] You know what I mean?”

Brown left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17 of last season and hasn’t exactly acted like a person planning to play in the NFL again. He has said he will not undergo any necessary ankle surgery until a team signs him in March, and candidly stated that fans shouldn’t expect to see him play football next season in May.

However, he indicated that he wanted to retire from the Steelers.

Would the Steelers organization be open to this? It remains to be seen, although Tomlin went out of his way to praise Brown as a player while acknowledging things weren’t being handled well on the personal front. Remarkably, he used nothing but the past tense:

“I don’t think enough is being said about this guy’s will. About this guy’s work ethic. About the fearlessness in which he played the game. Is fear ever a factor in his game? … I’ve never seen him blink on the football field. I’ve never seen him shy away from anything uncomfortable on the football pitch. I only saw him run into burning buildings on the soccer field. We talk about all these other things, man, but we don’t talk about that. Incredible will. Incredible work ethic. Incredible belief in yourself. That’s what I think of when I think about the nine years I spent with this guy.

“With success comes a lot of things. Some we handle well, some we don’t. Some he did well, some not. Some of it changed him in ways that weren’t that appealing. Somehow he grew and grew in a big way… success is a slippery red carpet.”

If that’s really all for Brown, he’ll have 928 career receptions, 12,291 yards and 83 touchdowns, seven Pro Bowl nominations, a Super Bowl ring and a 2010 NFL All-Decades spot in the retire. Pretty good for a 5ft 10 six-rounder from Central Michigan.

Brown’s peak in Pittsburgh was one of the highest the sport of football has seen by a wide receiver, but even its most successful coaches will concede there are things he could have handled better.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 28: Antonio Brown attends his album release party at Wonderland on April 28, 2022 in New York City.  (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

Antonio Brown is more focused on his rap career these days. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)