The Steelers have no intention of releasing Antonio Brown, team president Art Rooney II said Thursday, but it’s also “hard to envision” the Pro Bowl receiver as a member of the team when training camp starts this summer.
“We’ll look at all the options,” Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.
Brown led the league and set a team record with 15 touchdown receptions and was selected for his sixth straight and seventh overall Pro Bowl this season. But he was benched for the Steelers’ crucial regular-season finale against Cincinnati after missing practices and meetings during the week leading up to the game.
Brown reported to Heinz Field apparently expecting to play in the Dec. 30 game but left at some point after learning he was not going to take the field. The Steelers won 16-13 but failed to qualify for the playoffs.
According to the Post-Gazette, Brown hasn’t spoken with anyone in an official capacity with the Steelers since, including Rooney and coach Mike Tomlin, who have reportedly made multiple efforts via phone.
“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,” Rooney said Thursday. “We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
Brown is under contract with the Steelers through the 2021 season. He will count significantly against the salary cap next season whether the Steelers trade him or not — almost $22.2 million as things stand right now and only about $1.1 million less if he’s dealt to another team. But such a move would save the Steelers $15.1 million in real money.
Asked if it would be hard or easy to envision Brown at camp with the Steelers next season, Rooney told the Post-Gazette: “As we sit here today, it’s hard to envision that. But there’s no sense on closing the door on anything today. There’s snow on the ground. We don’t have to make those decisions right now.”