Remember when Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II said he couldn’t envision Antonio Brown being with the team at training camp? Also keep in mind that Rooney included many qualifiers to all of his statements, leaving himself some outs.
This is why: Reality sets in. The Steelers might not be thrilled with Brown, and Brown might want out, but trading him still means a $21.1 million cap hit to not have a Hall of Fame player on the roster. That’s tough to wrap your head around.
Brown’s Steelers teammates might not be too happy with him either, after he had some kind of dispute with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, reportedly missed practices and meetings after that and was subsequently benched for Week 17. But players also know the team won’t be as good without Brown.
And so, almost a month after the Week 17 fiasco with Brown, there appears to be some thawing in the situation, from one of the Steelers’ captains and noted leaders.
Maurkice Pouncey addresses Antonio Brown situation
Center Maurkice Pouncey is one of the Steelers’ captains, and at the Pro Bowl he told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that the team could work out its issues with Brown.
“Time heals everything,” Pouncey said, according to Fowler.
Not that Pouncey speaks for everyone in the locker room, but it’s an interesting stance for one of the team’s leaders. One of the things that has been said most often about the Brown saga is that it would be hard for his teammates to take him back after he practically went AWOL before Week 17 and then showed up Sunday expecting to play. Maybe that’s not the case.
Pouncey also disputed the part of the report that said Brown threw a football at Roethlisberger, and told Fowler he likened it to “two brothers in a dispute.” Right after the season, Roethlisberger downplayed any issue with Brown.
As Rooney said, when he sent a message to Brown by hinting at a possible trade but never boxing himself into a corner by saying it would happen, the Steelers “have time to make a decision.” That left him some wiggle room. And less than a month after the regular season, maybe we’re seeing signs it can still be worked out.
Could Brown, Steelers work things out?
Even if the Steelers decide they can live with what Brown did and want to welcome him back, Brown doesn’t seem too thrilled with the team. Through his vague tweets and the petty act of removing “Steelers” from his Twitter bio, he hasn’t shown any contrition. He hasn’t shown that he wants to be back in Pittsburgh.
Then again, he might not have a choice. He is signed through 2021. He has a base salary of $12.6 million in 2019 and more than $36 million over the next three years. It’s hard to believe he’d pass that up if the Steelers play hardball.
It’s a saga with a long way to go. The Steelers will presumably look into the trade market, though they might not get an offer they can’t refuse for a receiver who will be 31 years old next season. The Steelers will have to weigh all the pros and cons.
They’ll also need to get a feel for the other players, and what they think of a Brown return. We’ll see if others follow Pouncey’s lead and clear the path for Brown to be welcomed back.
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