With right about 8 weeks remaining before the start of the 2019 NFL league year, it continues to sound more and more like we’re entering the final two months of wide receiver Antonio Brown being a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Last week, Steelers team president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it was hard to “envision” Brown being on the team by the time training camp rolls around and Wednesday, he made it sound even more like Brown will be dealt in the coming months.
In his annual end-of-the-season sit-down with members of the local media, Rooney let it be known that while no trade discussions concerning Brown have taken place yet, and while the door’s still open for the wide receiver to remain with the team in 2019, there’s “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen,” according to Ed Bouchette of the PPG.
Rooney went on to say on Wednesday that he has yet to have contact with Brown since the 2018 season ended, which he called “disappointing,” according to Bouchette. Additionally, He reportedly said that Brown was not a major distraction to the team “until the last week of the season.”
“We have left everything open at this point,” said Rooney, according to the team’s official website. “There aren’t many signs out there that (an apology is) going to happen, but as I said before, we haven’t made any decisions and we’re going to take our time. There are no real decisions that can or need to be made until the middle of March, and so we’ll take that time to evaluate everything.”
That major distraction that Rooney references Brown being obviously centers around the wide receiver going AWOL from the team for several days prior to the regular season home finale. Brown was ultimately benched for that game by head coach Mike Tomlin and while he did show up for the game, he wore a fur coat instead of Steelers gear and reportedly left at halftime.
Rooney, according to Bouchette, later added that Brown still received his final game check despite him basically quitting on the team.
“He probably did what he needed to do to avoid his last check being voided,” Rooney reportedly said.
While it certainly sounds like the Steelers have yet to have any talks concerning Brown possibly being traded this offseason, one must think those are coming up very soon. While the Steelers can’t officially trade Brown until the start of the new league year in March, they can start fielding calls now. In fact, last year around the Super Bowl was when first reports surfaced that that the Kansas City Chiefs had a deal in place to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins.
The Steelers aren’t likely to have a deal for Brown in place that soon and if they do decide to ultimately trade him, we might not know about where he’s being shipped off to and for what until early March. As previously mentioned on this site, the Steelers will incur a dead money salary cap charge of $21.12 million in 2019 should they trade Brown prior to paying him the $2.5 million roster bonus he’s due just a few days after the start of the new league in March.
“I think the kind of bottom line evaluation of that is, this guy was a great football player in this league over multiple years,” said Rooney, according to steelers.com. “I said before: Were there things maybe we would’ve liked to have done a little differently or would’ve liked (Antonio) to do a little differently – the answer to that is probably, yes. He is one of the hardest-working players on the team, he contributed to a lot of wins, and I think someday maybe we’ll understand better what happened here during the last week of the season, but I don’t really understand it right now.
“I’ve been around a lot of football players over a lot of years, and they come in all shapes and sizes and colors. We work hard to try and bring people here who we think are a good fit, but people are different, and we’ve had some different characters here and there over the years. So the bottom line is I’m disappointed over what happened at the end of the season, and if there are lessons to be learned here we’ll look at that and see what we can do better.”
Brown is expected to talk more about his situation and how he’s currently being portrayed in an upcoming Instagram video. In fact, Brown chimed in on Twitter not long after Rooney finished his question and answer session with the media.