The dominant story of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason will continue to be The Antonio Brown Situation™, the fact being that that might not even change once there is a resolution. No matter which way the end result goes, it will shape the Steelers’ season, and perhaps the next several seasons, so it’s going to be a focal point and a target for criticism.
With Brown recently pretty much making it publicly known that he has asked the Steelers to trade him, there is been the large presumption that the team would do just that. After all, why would you want somebody who doesn’t want to be there. Mike Tomlin said something to the effect that he’s looking for volunteers, not hostages.
But would it totally be out of character if the organization went a different way? Not for Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who said that he believes it’s still possible the Steelers will balk at trading him in order to avoid setting a precedent.
“The Steelers’ way is to tell players how it’s gonna be. And it’s very out of character for the Steelers to be in this position the past two years with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, where the players are telling them how it’s gonna be”, he said.
“I still hold out the possibility that eventually the Steelers are gonna say, ‘you know what, screw this. We can’t afford to set this precedent where any star player thinks if you make enough noise, you get what you want. We’re gonna slam this door in his face, and we’re gonna tell him’—just like the Vikings did to Adrian Peterson a few years ago when he wanted out of Minnesota—’hey, you’ve got two choices: you play for us, or you play for no one. And if you choose to play for no one, you’re gonna owe us $11.4 million that we’ve already paid you in signing bonus money that you haven’t earned yet. And you’re not gonna get any more money from us. You’re not gonna get anymore money from anyone. So if you’re unhappy, deal with it. A lot of people are unhappy. This is where you are, this is where you’ve been, and this is where you’ll be, and you better shape us as well, because we’re gonna start fining you, and we’re gonna discipline you, and things are gonna be different’”.
To be honest, I think there is a lot of sense in what Florio says, at least logically, but I would still be surprised if this is how things shape up. Remember, Martavis Bryant also asked to be traded and it happened. James Harrison wanted to be released and it eventually happened.
In other words, if the team can find a way to acquiesce to a player’s demands while making it seem as though they are just doing what makes sense for them, they’re not going to balk at doing it. And they have flirted with setting precedents in the past with Brown
Most recently, they did so by accelerating future money into earlier years of his first contract, giving him an additional $2 million on the second- and third-to-last years on his first extension before receiving the extension he has been playing under.
“I still think there’s a chance that that’s what the Steelers are gonna resolve to do, even if Antonio Brown doesn’t want that”, Florio said. And you know, he’s not wrong. There is a chance that they might do it. But I think there is too much motivation for them to do it right now unless something changes between now and the start of the new league year that improves the relationship between Brown and the organization to make a reconciliation a part of the discussion.