"We can't do this with hostages, man; we need volunteers," Tomlin said, per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. "We need good players, good guys who want to be here, and if guys can't check those boxes, it's probably best for all parties involved to go our separate ways."
Frankly, when it came to talking about Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell—the former who was traded to the Oakland Raiders, the latter who signed with the New York Jets after holding out the entirety of last season—Tomlin seemed ready to move on.
"I think it has been highly chronicled and I think it has been too chronicled," he said. "Some things have been said that may or may not have been true. All I know is neither one of those guys are members of our team anymore. Relationships run their course, and the fact that neither one of them are here speaks to that."
Tomlin also addressed the questions about Ben Roethlisberger's leadership that have surfaced since Brown took shots at the veteran quarterback, notably saying Big Ben had "owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches" in a February tweet:
Mark Kaboly @MarkKaboly
"I don't think (Roethlisberger) was devoid of leadership skills or talents. He is more than capable as a QB, more than capable as a leader but yes, I do expect growth & development Certainly. I expect growth & development from everybody based on the experiences we are a part of"
Without question, it was a tumultuous year for the Steelers, highlighted by Brown eventually being benched in Week 17 by the team after reportedly feuding with Roethlisberger and skipping practices. Bell's holdout didn't help matters, nor did the Steelers missing the playoffs with a 9-6-1 record.
So it isn't surprising that Tomlin might want "volunteers" to help turn things around, though the NFL is also a business and the players have as much right to look out for their own best interests as the teams do.
In the end, the best interests of players like Brown and Bell didn't align with the best interests of the Steelers.