When Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said yesterday that it would be “hard to envision” that wide receiver Antonio Brown still being with the organization by the time training camp rolls around, it pretty much blew up all around Steelers Twitter, and through much of NFL Twitter as well. It’s huge news, of course, and is going to attract a lot of attention.
Especially when it’s framed just right, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did, which is their prerogative. I think most people understand the world we live in and the urgency to frame narratives in a manner that best generates attention while still being generally accurate and faithful to the content.
But because of the significance of the statement, and the weight that it carries, I wanted to explore it a little deeper to ensure that it is placed in its proper context. Yes, Rooney did explicitly say that it would be “hard to envision” Brown being at training camp. But that’s not all that he said.
First, let’s back up to the question that he was asked that prompted that response. Article author Gerry Dulac was specific in that. He said that Rooney was asked specifically whether “it would be hard or easy to envision Brown being at training camp”.
This is framing the response, and given the two options, it’s obvious that it’s hard, rather than easy, to envision Brown being with the team right now. Because right now, he’s not even returning Rooney’s phone calls. Rooney was asked, to be clear, if it would be hard or easy to envision Brown being there, and his response was that it would be hard to envision Brown being there. His answer was dictated by the question. And it was also only part of his answer. This was his complete answer:
“As we sit here today, it’s hard to envision that. But there’s no sense on closing the door on anything today. There’s snow on the ground. We don’t have to make those decisions right now”.
Rooney was careful in his speech. He made sure to clarify that his statement applied to early January 2019. Sitting here right now, as we speak, sure, it is hard to envision Brown being here later this year when he is not even talking to anybody.
And after he gave his callback response to the framed question, he also made sure to clarify that there is no rush to make any decisions because there is still plenty of time, and things can change quite a bit in that time before a decision has to be made. And he plans to use that time.
The reason that I go out of my way to point this out is because I have seen the viral quote being used to make the argument that Rooney and the Steelers really want to trade Brown. He may well end up being traded, but this quote isn’t the proof of its inevitability.
For the record, I don’t fault or blame Dulac or the PPG for how the article was presented, or how it was received. But I do hope that some will find this a helpful addendum.