Would The Steelers Really Consider Trading WR Antonio Brown?

By now, most of you have probably read the article by Ron Cook in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concerning Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. If you haven’t, I suggest you do so.

In short, Cook believes the Steelers should seriously look into trading Brown ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft.

While Cook’s article is mostly an opinion piece, the paragraph below is probably worth some attention.

The distractions are a real problem. Brown’s three excessive celebrations penalties early in the season were bad enough. But there was the incident in the first Miami game when he jogged back to the line of scrimmage, delaying his teammates from running their 2-minute offense. In more than one game, when he wasn’t happy with how he was being used, he frequently ran the wrong patterns, either because of a lack of focus or — worse — intentionally. It happened a week ago in the AFC championship. That’s inexcusable.

Now, while I don’t really care for Brown’s excessive celebrations penalties, it’s not a reason to trade him away as far as I’m concerned. As far as the rest of Cook’s accusations, while I don’t know for sure if they’re true, it would be very unfortunate and disappointing if they are. Is Cook just throwing these accusations out there, or have several players and or people associated with the team indeed passed along this information to him? I don’t know the answer to that question, but one would hope that Cook wouldn’t just make all of it up. Part of me doesn’t think he is.

Brown is indeed somewhat of a diva and I think most of you would agree with that statement. He’s also a damn good diva and a hard-working one at that. He’s also long-producing diva that’s about to sign a very lucrative contract extension between now and the start of the 2017 regular season.

So, is Brown worth $14 million or more season? It’s hard to say that he’s not. I mean, just look what he’s done over the course of the last four seasons. Now, is he worth $14 million a season to the Steelers moving forward and especially being as he’ll be turning 29 in July?

Would Brown take less than $14 million a season in new money? I suppose there’s always a chance of that happening, but, why should he? If the Steelers don’t give Brown that kind of money, another team likely would if given the opportunity to do so. In short, I expect Brown and agent Drew Rosenhaus to turn their collective noses up at any offer that doesn’t result in the wide receiver being the highest-paid in the league at his position. I’d even bet he’d be willing to sit out most of the 2017 season if he doesn’t get such a deal by the start of training camp.

While I do understand Cook saying that no player who touches the football just seven or eight times a game should get money borderlining on what an average starting quarterback in the league might get, I think that’s a poor way to frame his argument. Why? Because Brown draws so much attention that it opens other passing options for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Seriously, though, and touches a game aside, if Brown were more like Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, would Cook still have the same stance that he currently has with the Steelers wide receiver? Maybe, maybe not. The fact of the matter is that Brown is not Fitzgerald and I think that’s what really bothers Cook the most.

So, can the Steelers win without Brown? I think they can, but only if their defense improves. Let’s face it, replacing Brown’s 100-plus receptions and explosive plays would be extremely tough and might just require the drafting of another top wide receiver this year to go along with Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Demarcus Ayers. Even then, the offense is still likely to be somewhat less explosive, at least initially.

Let’s move on and indulge Cook’s recommendation of the Steelers trading Brown.

First, the Steelers would need a trading partner willing to not only give up at least one first round selection, but one willing to immediately make Brown the highest-paid wide receiver in the league. I think such a team or two does indeed currently exist. I mean, I like those odds all things considered.

Second, while the Steelers would have a dead money charge of $8,908,334 against their 2017 salary cap if they did indeed trade Brown, the bottom line is that they would ultimately save $4.71 million in actual cap space this upcoming season. That $4.71 million in cap savings could go toward a nice free agent signing and maybe even, gasp, a young and established outside linebacker.

The presumed first round draft pick the Steelers would receive for Brown could then be used on another top edge-rusher, cornerback or wide receiver with the team’s original first round selection being used to fill any one of those other needs.

Third, if the Steelers traded Brown, they wouldn’t have to worry about carrying a bloated cap number at the wide receiver position for the next several years and they would eliminate a potential future distraction in the process.

Now, if the Steelers firmly believe that they can’t win now without Brown and that he’s really not as big of a distraction as Cook and others make him out to be, in no way should they consider trading him. And if that is indeed the case, they should be prepared to make him the highest paid receiver in the league this offseason.

If, however, the Steelers do believe that Brown is more concerned about his stats than he is winning and they also believe that they can win now without him, then, yes, they should at least explore their trade options with him in the coming weeks.

While the Steelers have indeed parted ways with other wide receivers in the past via a trade (Santonio Holmes) or via free agency (Plaxico Burress, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders), none of those players were as talented and productive as Brown. Even so, the Steelers will do what they feel is best in order to continue their winning ways and thus I won’t be overly surprised if they explore trading Brown.

Like many of you, I hope Brown remains a Steeler, but if all of Cook’s accusations are true and if those issues aren’t corrected quickly, it’s hard seeing the organization rewarding him with a huge lucrative contract in the coming weeks and months.

Needless to say, it should be an interesting next several weeks.

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