Odell Beckham Jr. prior to the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

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Keidel: Giants Must Learn From Steelers' Mistakes When It Comes To OBJ

Jason Keidel
March 12, 2019 - 2:34 pm
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So Antonio Brown did something even more daring than his TD twerk. 

He's perhaps the first big-time American athlete to use social media to muscle his way out of his team, town and contract. 

Not only did the electric, eccentric wideout make the Pittsburgh Steelers so miserable that they traded him for half of what he's worth, Brown also winked his way into getting the Oakland Raiders to pour more money into his bejeweled bank account. 

It was quite a sleight of hand for the 30-year-old All-Pro. The Steelers were under no obligation to trade him. Nor were the Raiders forced to shred his old deal and give him a new one. Yet both happened by his epic sense of self and by beating the Twitter and Instagram drum until everyone surrendered, every roadblock on his way to payday obliterated. As Brown often asserts, business is booming. 

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As a Steelers fan, I'm horrified. Not by Brown's antics, but by the team's lack of focus, foresight and discipline. They handed Brown all the power by never checking him at every sign of selfish behavior. 

But while fans are worried that Brown's conquest is an omen, they're not taking the wide view of pro football. Fans are trembling at the idea that Brown just busted open the floodgates for any NFL malcontent to whine his way out of his obligations. While it's true Brown and the Steelers just set a perilous precedent, this is far more anomaly than normality. 

First, an NFL player must be a star to make this happen, and also a star of Brown's orbit and ability, among the 10-best players in the entire league. Don't forget the owners - led by Roger Goodell - always take the NFLPA to the woodshed whenever a new CBA is negotiated. The players union gets less practice time in pads, fewer weeks of work in the offseason, the owners walk away with an absurd share of the cash. 

So when you see Drew Rosenhaus preening from his perch as the NFL's alpha-agent, understand that only the top one percent of the top one percent of the world's best football players can even approach Brown's leverage. Plus it takes a normally solid and stoic club like the Steelers to drop enough PR poop to make this trade a necessity. 

Local fans - Big Blue fans in particular - are wondering if Brown's desertion catches the eager ears of Odell Beckham Jr. Despite signing a record-setting $95 million deal with the Giants last summer, Beckham has already dropped hints that the Big Apple may not be the apple of his eye. Beckham behaved well enough just long enough to secure the richest deal for a WR, and then his inner diva started oozing out.  

Fans have made their Faustian deal to keep Beckham in the fold. You accept his moods, quirks and quips because he's so absurdly gifted, perhaps the most naturally talented wideout since Randy Moss. In exchange for his foibles, you gawk at his one-handed, balletic catches, marvel at his impossible hybrid of speed, skill and guts.

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But what if the Giants don't draft a QB with their first-round pick? What if there's no plan beyond 2019 and Eli Manning? The Giants made no run at Nick Foles, despite the fact that he's a Super Bowl MVP, is almost a decade younger than Eli and reportedly had some interest in the G-Men. What if the Giants- who passed on the most fertile QB class of 2018 - also pass on Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray? 

What if the Giants are a 5-11 squad for another few years, saddled with a QB who can't get Beckham the ball and his normal numbers? Maybe Beckham isn't cool with losing, but he's downright allergic to catching five passes a game for 70 yards and zero touchdowns. 

Would Beckham borrow from Brown's playbook? What if Big Blue's old-school ethics mess with Beckham's new-world sensibilities? Would he use Twitter as his Trojan Horse into more fertile pastures?

Giants GM Dave Gettleman said that you don't sign a star like Beckham just to trade him. Gettleman also said you don't give up on talent. No doubt that was the Steelers' mantra when they made Brown a very rich man. The NFL's acrid acronym, Not For Long, applies in myriad ways. Loyalty is a laughable buzzword. So is the family code that clubs preach, right until they cut half their roster. And a player's sense of contentment is commensurate to his numbers. 

Already we've heard Boomer and Gio muse over the rumor that the 49ers are toying with the idea of trading for Beckham. But two things must happen for that to happen. Beckham would have to profess in irreconcilable misery with the team and this town. And the Giants must be willing to deal him. Folks forget that a team is not forced to move a player under contract. The Steelers chose to ship Brown for little more than backstage passes to a Yanni concert. The Giants could make Beckham play only for them, and his vanity is too acute to sit out a season. His bottomless narcissism is too strong to stay away from the bright lights of gameday. 

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Plus Beckham would be a fool to demand a trade.  He's already the biggest sports star in the media hub of America. What would moving 3,000 miles west accomplish? He won't get more money, more fame or more chances to build his brand. 

The Steelers and Giants are considered two clubs cut from the same cloth - two wise franchises with ties going back to the Great Depression. Let's just hope the Giants learn from the Steelers, keep Odell Beckham Jr, get him the ball and back into business. For all his faults, Beckham is good for business, and Big Blue knows it.   

Twitter: @JasonKeidel