FOXBORO — For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the Patriots signing wide receiver Antonio Brown is a mixed blessing.
The controversial player will help the Patriots on the field, which doesn’t make them happy. But his off-the-field antics could cause some serious conflict and internal turmoil, which — as fans of a rival team — makes them very happy.
Enjoying the beautiful weather and tailgating in lots surrounding Gillette Stadium before the Patriots kicked off the 2019 season Sunday night, fans of both teams were eager to talk about Brown’s newly drafted one-year deal with the Patriots worth up to $15 million — with $9 million guaranteed.
The seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time first team All Pro has yet to ink the deal, so he wasn’t allowed to play in Sunday night’s matchup against his former team. He is expected to sign the contract Monday and get to work practicing this week in anticipation of next week’s matchup against the Dolphins in Miami.
“He’s the Patriots problem now. Good riddance,” said Jerry Macky, 47, a Steelers fan who lives in Providence, R.I. “The Patriots talk about ‘the Patriots way,’ but they aren’t any better than any other team — they’re worse because they’re cheaters — and will take on someone like Antonio Brown because they want to win at any cost.”
Tony Dalicandro, 72, a retired sales representative from Mt. Pleasant, Penn., and Steelers fan who attended Sunday night’s game with his wife, Karen, and family members who live in Massachusetts, called the Patriots decision to sign Brown “a big mistake,” but said “if anyone can straighten Antonio Brown out, it’s [Patriots head coach Bill] Belichick.”
Shortly after being traded from the Steelers to the Raiders at the end of the 2018 season, Brown — arguably the best wide receiver in the National Football League — began having problems with Raiders management and was disciplined.
“I was shocked,” said Dalicandro’s grandson, Brendan, 15, when asked about Brown joining the Patriots. “I didn’t think Belichick and the organization would want him coming to the team with all of the drama,” said the Scituate teenager, who, like his family members is a die-hard Steelers fans. “He’s a great downfield receiver and he’s super fast, so he will do well with Tom Brady. As a Steelers fan, I’m hoping not too well.”
His younger brother, Jack, 12, said he thinks the Patriots “hadn’t found a good replacement for [former star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who recently announced his retirement], so Antonio Brown will give the Patriots a good option.”
Lou LaVoie, 74, who is retired, called Brown “a head case,” but said “I think Belichick will handle him.”
“I just hope having him there doesn’t [adversely impact the team dynamics] in the locker room,” said Bill Campbell, 63, a machine shop owner from Beverly.
Becky Dandrea, 47, a personal trainer from Chicago and a devoted Steelers fan, said “I’m glad he’s the Patriots headache now and not ours.”
Kevin Cann, 65, who grew up in Pennsylvania but lives in Mariposa, Calif., where he is an elected country supervisor, attended Sunday’s game with his daughter, Alex, who lives in Boston. He called it “suspicious” that the Patriots signed Brown so quickly after his release from the Raiders.
He hinted that a deal might have been in the works for some time. “It smells that way,” Cann said, adding that while Brown will be an asset to the Patriots on the field, “I can almost guarantee that as soon as something goes wrong and things don’t go his way, there will be a big blow up.”
His daughter, Alex, 33, a diversity compliance consultant, said she finds the whole situation “entertaining.”
The father and daughter — he wore a Steelers jersey and she wore a Steelers jacket — both gave shout outs to the Patriots fans at Sunday’s game, saying “they are lots of fun and have been so gracious.”
Patriots fan Jonathan Callahan, 24, a computer programmer from Braintree said that he and his friends spent “hours” talking about Brown’s arrival to the Patriots while they were tailgating before Sunday’s game.
“Look, we all agree he’s a bit crazy, but damn is he good,” he said. “And now that we don’t have Gronk, we can use someone like him. I think Belichick and the rest of the team will keep him in line.”