Art Rooney II Keeping Doors Open for Antonio Brown, 'No Trade Discussions Yet'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 23: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a touchdown during the second half against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 23, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II provided an update on Antonio Brown's status with the team, telling reporters Wednesday the Steelers haven't held formal trade talks centered around the four-time All-Pro receiver.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, Rooney said the team is still open to Brown returning for the 2019 season but that there are "not that many signs out there that that's going to happen."

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Joe Rutter shared Rooney's additional thoughts:

Brown missed the Steelers' final game, a 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, with what at the time was announced as a knee injury.

However, Bouchette and colleague Gerry Dulac reported Brown had an argument with Ben Roethlisberger and left practice on the Wednesday before the game. He missed Pittsburgh's next two practices and the team's walkthrough on the following Saturday before arriving at Heinz Field on game day.

Rooney spoke about that situation Wednesday.

"I don't think [Brown] was a major distraction to the team up until the last weekend of the season," he said, per The Athletic's Mark Kaboly.

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported on New Year's Day that Brown had requested a trade from the Steelers.

Rooney's comments this week echo what he said last week when he told Dulac it's "hard to envision" Brown remaining with the Steelers when the team opens training camp in July.

Given his resume, Brown is likely to have plenty of interested suitors. The seven-time Pro Bowler is one of the NFL's best wideouts and finished the 2018 season with 1,297 receiving yards and a league-best 15 touchdown receptions.

His contract is a big hurdle in any trade negotiations, though. He carries a $22.1 million, $18.3 million and $19.5 million salary-cap hit over each of the next three years, per Over the Cap. The Steelers also have to grapple with the prospect of either adding $21.2 million in dead money to their payroll in 2019 or spreading that hit out over three years—$7 million annually—by dealing Brown.

As much as Rooney might cast doubt on Brown's long-term future in Pittsburgh, a lot can change between now and July.

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