According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rooney said Brown wouldn't be released but that "all other options are on the table."
"We'll look at all the options. We're not going to release him, that's not on the table," Rooney explained. "But I will say all other options are on the table."
Brown seemed to cryptically respond to the news on Instagram:
While Brown missed out on making his sixth straight All-Pro team in 2018, his uncertain future isn't due to his play on the field.
Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported following the Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals that the receiver had skipped the entire week of practice after a confrontation with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He was declared inactive for the game and not for a knee injury as the Steelers had announced.
Two days after the game, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Brown had requested a trade as a result of his "issues" with Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin. It now appears as though the team might be willing to grant his request.
While there will undoubtedly be significant demand for Brown on the trade block, one holdup could be the financial situation.
According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, the Steelers will have $21.1 million in dead cap room if the receiver is either cut or traded, which would account for 8-10 percent of the overall salary cap. The team would save $15 million in cash if he isn't on the roster, although Pittsburgh's options would be limited.
Still, Rooney noted this wouldn't necessarily prevent a deal.
"[The salary cap] 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," the owner said. "If we decide something has to be done, we'll figure out how to deal with that."
With a release, the Steelers would lose that cap space without getting anything in return, which is why that seems like a nonstarter for the front office.
On the other hand, a trade might allow the team to replace its star player with assets to collectively fill Brown's void on the field.