It’s starting to sound more and more like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown might have played his last game with the organization.
In a Thursday interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said that while the team has no plans to release Brown, “all other options are on the table,” according to Gerry Dulac.
According to Dulac, Rooney went as far to say it would be “hard to envision” Brown being with the Steelers when the team reports to training camp in July. In short, Rooney left it open that Brown could be traded.
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney told the PPG, according to Dulac. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.
“Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
Brown, who has three years left on his current contract, is due a $2.5 million roster bonus in March after the start of the new league year. Trading him before he’s paid his roster bonus would result in the Steelers incurring a dead money charge of $21.12 million against their salary cap in 2019. Even with that full dead money charge the Steelers would save $1.045 million in 2019 salary cap space should Brown be dealt before his roster bonus is paid.
The 2019 NFL trading period doesn’t officially begin until March 13 so the Steelers can certainty take some time before making a final decision on if they want to deal Brown before paying his roster bonus. Rooney told the PPG on Thursday that the team won’t rush to make a decision
“All options are on the table. We have two months to go before we can do anything. There’s no sense making the decision now,” Rooney told the PPG. “We’ll see how things play out. Maybe he decides to come talk to us some day and we learn more about where he is. We’ll see.”
As far as that potential big dead money hit goes should Brown ultimately be traded, Rooney didn’t sound too worried about that.
“That has to be taken into consideration, but, as I sit here today, I’m not going to say that’s going to box us into anything,” Rooney said. “If we decide something has to be done, we’ll figure out how to deal with that.”
Brown went AWOL from the Steelers the days leading up to their regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals and refused to answer phone calls from teammates, head coach Mike Tomlin and Rooney. The morning of the game against the Bengals, Brown has his agent call Tomlin to tell him he was healthy enough to play and the steelers head coach let it be known that the decision had already been made and that the wide receiver would be inactive to close out the season.
While Brown did show up to the game, he wore a fur coat and it’s believed that he left at halftime. Since then, Brown reportedly hasn’t any contact with the team in any capacity and that means he missed his end-of-the-season exit meeting with Tomlin.
Rooney went on to say that the situation with Brown and the team didn’t get to this point just because of what transpired during the team’s final Wednesday practice of the season.
“My belief is there’s more to it than an incident one day at practice,” Rooney said. “That’s one of the reasons I would have liked to talk to him about it — what it was and how it got to this point.”
In summation, it sounds like the ball is now in Brown’s court and that some massive reconciliation with the Steelers needs to be achieved very soon if the wide receiver wants to have any shot at playing another game for the Black and Gold. If things can’t be worked out soon between the two sides, Brown’s business might be booming with a different NFL team come the middle of March, or before the start of training camp at the latest.
UPDATE (5:12 PM): Shortly after Rooney’s comments were made public, Brown posted this photo to his Instagram account. It shows Rooney and Brown shaking hands, captioned “Good Business.” An olive branch? Maybe. Hopefully. But with Brown, who knows.