Open for business? Steelers owner Art Rooney II softens stance on Antonio Brown

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/pittsburgh/" data-ylk="slk:Pittsburgh Steelers">Pittsburgh Steelers</a> wide receiver <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24171/" data-ylk="slk:Antonio Brown">Antonio Brown</a> has an interesting offseason ahead. (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has an interesting offseason ahead. (AP)

This seems to be the week in which the Pittsburgh Steelers realize they still need receiver Antonio Brown, especially because trading a Hall of Fame player at a $21.1 million cap hit seems like a bad move.

A couple weeks ago emotions were still hot over Brown’s Week 17 act, when he reportedly ditched practices and meetings and then was benched for a game against the Bengals. This week we might be seeing a thaw. Center Maurkice Pouncey, a team captain, said from the Pro Bowl this week he thought the relationship between the team and Brown could be mended.

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Team owner Art Rooney II said shortly after the season that he couldn’t envision Brown being with the Steelers by training camp. This week he had a much different response to a question about Brown.

Art Rooney II has different tone on Antonio Brown

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Rooney was on a conference call with fans and was asked about the possibility of Le’Veon Bell, who held out last season, and Brown returning to the team. Rooney didn’t address Bell, who seems sure to leave in free agency, but he did talk about Brown.

“There are a lot of factors we have to take into account on it,” Rooney said, according to the Tribune-Review. “We’d have to sit down with Antonio and understand where he is and make sure he understands where we are. There is some work to do before we figure that out.”

In other words …


Brown’s cryptic tweet on Thursday morning probably doesn’t mean anything substantial, and it might mean nothing in relation to the Steelers, but his social media messages will be dissected as the saga develops.

As for Rooney, his initial comments seemed harsh, and some were, but they always included qualifiers about it being early in the offseason. Rooney never specifically said Brown would be traded. He left the door open for things to change later when everyone cooled off.

And a few weeks removed from the emotion of how the season ended, the Steelers seem to understand they need to keep open the possibility of Brown returning.

Maurkice Pouncey thinks Brown situation will work out

Rooney’s latest comments don’t mean Brown is going to be coming back. As he said, there is work to do before that happens. But the change in tone might help. Pouncey said from the Pro Bowl, “You can’t tell me a good phone conversation or sit down can’t get things right.” 

“In my opinion things will get worked out,” Pouncey said, according to Steelers.com. “Trust me I have been in fights with guys in practice. You guys have seen it. What do you guys think, I don’t like them again. They are my brothers. They are my family. At the end of the day you get past all of that. It takes time. The stories you see now will never get brought back up when things get right again.” 

That’s a positive outlook on the situation. Maybe it works out with Pittsburgh, or perhaps some team pays a heavy price in a trade with the Steelers to get Brown. But it seems certain we’re far from the end of the story.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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