The Pittsburgh Steelers might have reached their breaking point with Antonio Brown.
Reflecting on the star wide receiver’s actions at the end of the season, which multiple reports said included a halftime departure from a Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals for which he was inactive after skipping practices and other team functions throughout the week, Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette it would be “hard to envision” Brown returning to the team for training camp this summer.
Rooney said the team had no plans to release the four-time all-pro but that “all other options are on the table” for the player’s future.
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney said. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.
“Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the season that he was disappointed by Brown’s actions and communication in the final week, saying that his phone calls and texts to the receiver had not been returned.
Trading Brown would result in approximately $21 million in dead salary cap space for Pittsburgh, although the team would be cleared of his salary of more than $22 million. Rooney said, however, there were bigger considerations for the organization than the possible financial consequences of such a move.
“That 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,” Rooney said. “If we decide something has to be done, we’ll figure out how to deal with that.”
Brown is due a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17, four days after the start of the league year.
“We have two months to go before we can do anything,” Rooney said. “There’s no sense making the decision now. We’ll see how things play out. Maybe he decides to come talk to us some day and we learn more about where he is. We’ll see.”
Brown, who turns 31 in July, had 104 catches for 1,297 yards and a league-high 15 touchdown receptions in 2018.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.