For one reason or another, we have been entreated to a number of opportunities so far this offseason to hear from Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II. More than usual for him, and significantly more than the owners of most teams will indulge in. You can make of that what you will.
Rooney fielded questions from members of Steelers Nation Unite yesterday, and as you would imagine, pretty much the first thing he was asked about was wide receiver Antonio Brown, and what his expectations are at this point for how that situation will resolve itself.
“We’re still working through that”, he said in response to the fan’s question. “Obviously there are a lot of factors that we’ve got to take into account on it. We’d have to sit down with Antonio and kind of understand where he is and make sure he understands where we are. So there’s some work to do before we figure that part out”.
While stated in a different way, this is in line with everything that Rooney has said regarding Brown since the season ended, including the original headline-grabbing quote in which he said it was “hard to envision” him being there for training camp. I’ll link my article here explaining why that statement requires a lot more nuance than it has been given.
A week after making that remark, Rooney made the rounds on local radio shows. He was asked a number of times about Brown, and said that the team has yet to have any discussions with any teams about the possibility of trading him.
He called it “disappointing” that he hadn’t been in contact with the team that that they have “left everything open” in terms of their options, short of cutting him. “There aren’t many signs” of a reconciliation coming, he observed but “we haven’t made any decisions and we’re going to take our time”.
He also stressed that he didn’t believe Brown was a “major distraction” and that things changed dramatically in the final week of the season, calling it “a different story”. He went on to say that he’s “not going to disparage” Brown, going on to talk about how much he has contributed to the organization.
In other words, nothing has changed, even as others will try to tell you they have. He hasn’t “softened” his stance, and there’s nothing to indicate that he is reflecting some reality that other teams are not going to give him what he wants in a trade.
The reason that these things are being reported as they are is because others either have not paid attention to the nuance of Rooney’s comments or because they realize that it’s a better narrative to indicate that there has been a change.