The Antonio Brown situation has reached a level of seriousness where the Steelers' team president is now saying publicly that he doesn't expect Brown to be with the team when training camp begins in July and that everything short of a release is on the table. In other words, the situation has reached DEFCON 1.
On Thursday, during an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said that it's "hard to envision" Brown being with the team for training camp. He also ruled out the possibility of the team releasing him, but acknowledged that "all other options are on the table." That, of course, means the two sides could always make up and get back together, but it also means the Steelers could actually trade Brown.
Not helping matters: Nobody from the Steelers has officially spoken with Brown since Dec. 30, the day the Steelers' season ended without a playoff berth. He hasn't picked up when Rooney and Mike Tomlin have called him.
"There's not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision," Rooney said. "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."
The only problem is, trading him would be costly -- not just in terms of the production the Steelers would be losing. The Steelers would be on the hook for $21.1 million in dead money if they were to move Brown.
"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."
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Good Business #Boomin pic.twitter.com/LQPrBuuYPR— Antonio Brown (@AB84) January 10, 2019
The Steelers found themselves in this situation -- where their best skill-position player has demanded a trade -- after Brown skipped out on practice before the team's do-or-die season finale against the Bengals and didn't play in the game. Later, it came out that Brown got into a heated dispute with Ben Roethlisberger, has issues with both Roethlisberger and Tomlin, and has requested a trade.
While there are countless teams that should be interested in a player of Brown's caliber, trading him won't be simple. The asking price for Brown will likely be high. He'll turn 31 in the summer. The Steelers likely won't want to eat all of that dead money. This won't be resolved anytime soon -- March at the earliest. Once again, after dealing with the Le'Veon Bell contract situation for two years and finally moving on from him, the Steelers are embroiled in yet another conflict with a star skill-position player that might drag on.
"I'm not going to use those words," Rooney said of a trade. "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. 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."
In the meantime, teams in the market for a receiver averaging 1,524.2 yards and 11.2 touchdowns per season since 2013 should begin preparing their bids. It certainly sounds like the Steelers are open for business or, at the very least, open to the idea of being open for business.
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