Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert spoke with media on Wednesday, announcing that the team will do the only thing it can do when it comes to running back Le’Veon Bell, letting him go to free agency by opting not to use the transition tag on him.
As for the team’s other disgruntled player, receiver Antonio Brown, Colbert acknowledged that the team will make a good-faith effort to trade him, but it has no intention of letting him go at a discount.
Significant player means significant compensation
Colbert made it clear that getting Brown will carry a hefty price tag in terms of compensation.
There have not been any trade talks yet, Colbert said, but “that will probably pick up as this announcement becomes more official on our end.”
He added, “We’re not going to move a significant player for less than significant compensation.”
A trade package could be draft picks, or a player plus picks, Colbert said.
Brown won’t dictate where he ends up, and Colbert admitted that for competitive reasons, there are teams Pittsburgh won’t trade the four-time All-Pro to for competitive reasons. In short, if a trade doesn’t benefit the Steelers, it’s not going to happen.
Brown, Steelers brass met this week
Brown and Steelers brass, including owner Art Rooney II, met in Florida on Tuesday. Brown posted a photo of he and Rooney on Instagram, saying the two had “cleared the air.”
According to Colbert, the player and Rooney met privately for about 30 minutes, and the Steelers are disappointed things may end like this.
“We love you as a player, we thank you for what you did for us the last nine years. We’re disappointed we didn’t get you to a Super Bowl and still think you’re a Hall of Fame candidate and disappointed that didn’t happen with us,” Colbert relayed as his message to Brown. “But we are open to shop around the league to see what’s available.”
What if the Steelers don’t get a trade partner?
There’s one major question in all of this: will any team the Steelers are willing to deal Brown to offer a “significant” enough package for Pittsburgh to move him?
Though he is paid at a more than fair level and is signed through 2021, Brown has been trying to force his way out of Pittsburgh. Over the past week, he posted a self-aggrandizing video on social media that was his goodbye to Steelers fans, aired dirty laundry with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a Twitter chat, and posted a strange video on Instagram Live in which he said he should now be called “Mr. Big Chest.”
Add in his longtime aversion to appearing to team meetings on time, the report that the Steelers turned a blind eye to him staying in an off-campus AirBnB-style home during training camp instead of in the dorms at Saint Vincent College like the rest of his teammates (for the record, Tom Brady stays in the local hotel during Patriots’ training camp just like everyone else), and Brown going AWOL for the final days of the regular season, and it might be hard for other teams to be convinced that Brown will change his stripes if he gets a change of scenery.
Colbert said the team will not released Brown — that carries a massive salary cap hit — but if they can’t make a trade, “we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”
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