A week after failing to report for voluntary workouts at the team facility, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was there yesterday with his teammates, participating in the offseason process as everybody else was. Thus ending the minor controversy. I just hope that too many people didn’t decide to burn their jerseys immediately after the word ‘holdout’ was uttered.
Recently, of course, it was reported by Mike Garafolo of FoxSports 1 that Brown informed the team he would be skipping the Phase One workouts, and that the sixth-year receiver was considering potentially holding out beyond mandatory minicamp, possibly into training camp, in his quest for a new deal.
This is information presumably leaked to the media via his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who has a reputation for ruthlessness in his quest to gain the top dollar for his clients, and thus for himself. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also intimated that Brown told the team about his no-show to the workouts.
As of this point, I have no reason to believe that the reports of Brown’s and Rosenhaus’ intentions were genuine, and that he has had a change of heart over the course of time passed since his initial absence.
That would imply that there was a catalyst for his change of heart, and I’m not so sure that the public backlash—while certainly not insignificant—was the item that made the difference. More likely, he realized, or was made aware, that his absence would not in any way help to further achieve his goal of a new contract.
The Steelers have many unofficial policies, such as not negotiating contracts during the season, even if it means getting a deal done on the plane on the way to the first regular season game. Another policy is not negotiating with players while they are holding out, which is what Mike Wallace discovered a couple of offseasons back.
But there is another policy that most directly applies to Brown’s situation. Barring possibly the quarterback position, the Steelers do not negotiate new contracts with players until they are in the final year of a contract. And Brown has three years left on a six-year deal.
Realistically, the All-Pro wide receiver has already accomplished as much as he could have accomplished, if indeed he has accomplished anything by his week-long absence. He made it known publicly that he wanted a new contract, and that is about as far as this will likely realistically go for now.
Of course, Brown is not just your average wide receiver. He has the capacity to become the most accomplished wide receiver in team history. Just last season alone, he set new single-season franchise receiving records for receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns en route to his second-straight All-Pro nomination.
If there’s any player barring a franchise quarterback that the team might even consider opening a dialog with prior to the final year of his contract, it would be somebody like Brown. And the best way to go about that would be to exemplify the spirit of being a team-first, franchise-type of player.
But given that even Ben Roethlisberger just waited until the final year of his contract, I think it’s a safe bet that that won’t be happening.