Art Rooney II

Latest On Antonio Brown, Steelers

We learned yesterday that Steelers owner Art Rooney II and All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown will sit down to clear the air in Florida. We now know that meeting is expected to happen next week, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes

Brown hasn’t been shy about his desire to be traded this offseason, and just recently the star wideout took to Twitter to answer questions about his relationship with the team, coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It marks the latest in a long line of headline-grabbing actions from the receiver in 2019, who in addition to requesting a trade, was also involved in a domestic dispute in January.

Should the Steelers emerge from the meeting with Brown determined to trade him, they will unsurprisingly look to move him to an NFC team first, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. It has been reported that Brown desires to play in San Francisco, while teams like the Cardinals, Jets and Raiders have emerged as teams expected to be in the running for his services. It is unlikely that a team would trade a first-round pick for the veteran receiver, who is owed $36.5MM over the next three season, but a team could be willing to part with a second- or third-round selection. Bouchette notes that trade talks are expected to commence at the NFL Combine, which begins in less than two weeks.

Despite the tumultuous end to the season and beginning of the offseason, Brown is undoubtedly still at the top of his game. The 30-year-old widoeut earned his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl selection in 2018, finishing with 104 catches, 1,297 yards and a league-leading and career-high 15 touchdown receptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers, Antonio Brown Still In Talks

Although the odds Antonio Brown is wearing a different uniform are still fairly decent, the All-Pro wide receiver continues to talk with members of the Steelers front office.

The Steelers have yet to grant Brown or agent Drew Rosenhaus permission to seek a trade. During this time, however, Brown has maintained a steady dialogue with some Steelers personnel executives, Ian Rapoport of notes (video link), adding that the relationship remains solid between Brown and some members of the front office.

However, Brown has not discussed his situation with Kevin Colbert or Mike Tomlin, Rapoport adds. Nor has Brown returned Art Rooney II‘s phone calls since the season ended, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

As of Monday, Brown’s preference is still to be traded. Brown has been most connected to the 49ers, the latest link being a Photoshopped image of a No. 84 49ers jersey. But not much has developed on that front since rumors the Steelers might initiate trade talks surfaced.

Brown and Tomlin obviously did not leave things in a good place after the season ended. But Rooney appears to have softened his stance about the 30-year-old superstar returning to Pittsburgh in 2019. Brown still has some support in the Steelers’ locker room as well. Rooney, however, added the caveat of likely needing to hear some sort of an apology from Brown for his Week 17 actions if the parties will move forward together.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Steelers, Antonio Brown

Steelers owner Art Rooney II hasn’t been shy while opining on the status of disgruntled wideout Antonio Brown, first noting it’s “hard to envision” Brown being with the team in training camp before admitting there are “not that many signs out there that” Brown is going to offer any sort of apology for his Week 17 meltdown. But Rooney used a slightly softer tone when discussing Brown this week, as Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune writes.

“There are a lot of factors we have to take into account on it,” Rooney said. “We’d have to sit down with Antonio and understand where he is and make sure he understands where we are. There is some work to do before we figure that out.”

If Brown is cut or traded before June 1, the Steelers will incur more than $21MM in dead money on their salary cap and gain just over $1MM in new space. If he’s designated as a post-June 1 cut or traded after that date, Pittsburgh will take on roughly $7MM in dead money in 2019 and ~$14MM in 2020.

As Rutter notes, Brown is due a $2.5MM roster bonus on March 17, so the Steelers would likely trade him before paying out that total. Trades can’t be officially processed until the new league year begins on March 13, but agreements can be in place before then.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Antonio Brown, Steelers

On Friday, Antonio Brown, through his rep, declined to comment on prospective trade talks. However, the receiver is reportedly open to either being traded or returning to the Steelers in 2019, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets

According to Fowler, the perennial Pro Bowl pick is “open/eager” to prove he can thrive in any offense, but is fine with returning to Pittsburgh “if things shake out that way.” This comes a day after Steelers president Art Rooney II said it would be “hard to envision” Brown with the team next season.

This has all spiraled out of control fast since Brown’s blowup leading up to Week 17, which led head coach Mike Tomlin to bench him for a pivotal game against Cincinnati. Shortly thereafter, it was reported the star receiver was requesting a trade.

Thanks to the $19MM signing bonus he received in his four-year, $68MM extension and the $12.96MM restructuring bonus he later secured, cutting or trading Brown would result in a $21.12MM cap charge in 2019.

While it could be difficult to deal the wideout financially, the Steelers seem willing to explore trading Brown. Despite the hefty price tag, Brown is sure to find suitors looking to get its hands on the most consistent receiver from the last five years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Chargers, Gore, Broncos, Browns

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer did some scouting before this week’s critical Los Angeles-related owners’ meeting, in paying visits to three owners and commissioner Roger Goodell, according to David Garrick of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Along with Goodell, Faulconer met with John Mara (Giants), Robert Kraft (Patriots) and Jerry Richardson (Panthers) — each a member of the six-owner committee in charge of assessing Los Angeles’ feasibility as the Chargers, Raiders and Rams vie for relocation — and has requested summits with the committee’s other members, Clark Hunt (Chiefs), Bob McNair (Texans) and Art Rooney II (Steelers).

The prior trio of owners, however, did not say to Faulconer which way they were leaning, or if they did, Faulconer is not communicating that sentiment to the media. Per Garrick, the mayor’s expressing confidence thanks to a joint-county $1.1 billion stadium plan that would call for the prospective new Chargers’ home to be built over Qualcomm Stadium.

No votes are expected on Los Angeles at this week’s meeting, with a final decision likely coming around Super Bowl week, according to Garrick.

Here is some news from the facilities of the Chargers’ AFC brethren.

  • Due to Ty Sambrailo‘s shoulder injury, Peyton Manning will have another first-time blocker Sunday when Michael Schofield joins the Broncos‘ starting offensive line, per Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press. A third-round pick in 2014, Schofield’s been deactivated for each of the 20 games he’s been on the active roster, counting Denver’s divisional playoff loss last season, and he will take Ryan Harris‘ place at right tackle as Harris shifts to the left side.
  • Colts running back Frank Gore remains miffed 49ers GM Trent Baalke didn’t communicate with him this offseason he left the team after 10 years this winter, Matt Maiocco of writes. “The only thing I was hurt by was that I thought we could have (separated) better,” Gore told the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder. “I don’t know if I even wanted to go back. But I would have felt better if we would have sat down and had a conversation. I mean, I was going to test the market no matter what. Me and the head coach talked and he basically told me I’d be in a certain situation. But I wanted to hear it from the GM.
  • In addressing the issues with the Browns‘ offensive line, Terry Pluto of doesn’t think Joel Bitonio and Alex Mack are performing to the level they did at this point last year. The Browns rank 26th in rushing yards, and Football Outsiders grades the Cleveland front as the 27th-best power-blocking quintet thus far.

Extra Points: Goodell, Raiders, Mariota, Vaccaro

Although Roger Goodell‘s said he’s open to changing his role in the disciplinary process, the status quo won’t change for a while. Steelers owner Art Rooney II said any changes will be negotiated in the next collective bargaining agreement, which is up for renewal in 2021, and owners are in no rush to pursue what would be a complex fix, writes Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

“Look, I think more than likely we’re not talking months here. We’re most likely talking years,” Rooney told Pelissero. “I think there’s probably still a fair amount of time before both sides are willing to really roll up their sleeves and get something done.”

The NFLPA, however, responded to Rooney’s assertions of both sides having “informal discussions” on amending the personal conduct policy by saying the league has been unwilling to comply with the association’s requests to collectively bargain on the issue that’s become one of the key components of the modern NFL.

Should the two sides somehow agree to an extension on the CBA with new language on player discipline, that extension would be for a couple of years, Rooney told USA Today.

Here are some additional items affecting the league in Week 2.

  • Following his stadium proposal that was widely panned, developer Floyd Kephart won’t be taking part in future proposals involving a new Raiders stadium in Oakland, according to the Bay Area News Group. Kephart’s exclusive negotiating agreement was not renewed by the city of Oakland, and notes this should facilitate more direct dialogue between Oakland and the Raiders, who dismissed the financial basis for Kephart’s Coliseum City project.
  • Aldon Smith should see work in the Raiders’ base packages soon after playing only on passing downs in Week 1, writes Scott Bair of Smith played mostly at right defensive end in his 29 snaps last week, and Bair expects that to increase against the Ravens. With Jack Del Rio-led defenses reluctant to blitz, the onus will be on Smith and Khalil Mack to lead a four-man pressure package.
  • With the Browns set to host the Titans on Sunday, Mike Pettine admits a personal interest in Marcus Mariota‘s career, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Tom Reed. The second-year Cleveland coach believes many around the league are secretly rooting against Mariota and his former coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly, to fail and preserve the superiority of pro-style systems. “(Mariota) is the kind of guy you root for from a personal standpoint,” Pettine said. “But I think the football purists who want it to be a true pro-style game are not going to cheer for a guy like him because that would only encourage teams to blow this up and bring in college coordinators.”
  • The Saints want to expand Kenny Vaccaro‘s role to include covering slot receivers, Nick Underhill of writes. Vaccaro played 156 downs in slot coverage in 2013 and 108 last season, per Underhill, and was utilized as an in-the-box player when New Orleans opted for single-high safety looks.”

Extra Points: Texans, Steelers, Browns, Vikings

Texans owner Bob McNair is happy with what his front office was able to accomplish in free agency, write John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, particularly with the acquisitions of Brian Hoyer, Vince Wilfork, Rahim Moore, and Cecil Shorts.

“I’ve been quite pleased with free agency. We’ve accomplished what we set out to do. We signed a quarterback and got help in the defensive line. We wanted a free safety with range, more of a centerfielder, and we wanted to add some speed at receiver,” McNair said. “And we were able to retain Kareem, Derek and Mallett. We did it within the cap, and we didn’t sacrifice our future.”

Here are some other notes from around the NFL:

  • Steelers team president Art Rooney II has been overseeing a much different offseason, but does not expect the team to be extremely active late in the offseaon, writes Mark Kaboly of “We’re still looking at what the options are, and we’ll continue to do that,” Rooney said. “I think we’re at this point not expecting that there’s going to be a lot more activity out there, but we’re certainly continuing to look. If there’s a player that makes sense for us to pursue, we’ll do that.”
  • The Browns have been spending their money and assets on the defensive side of the ball recently, and their commitment on that side of the ball is evident when analyzing the salary cap numbers by position, writes Pat McManamon of The Browns are spending a large amount of money on their secondary, both in terms of cornerbacks and safeties, and are also spending significantly at linebacker. However, they are in saving money at quarterback, and more significantly at running back.
  • The Vikings have had lukewarm interest in inside linebacker Brandon Spikes, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter). Wolfson hasn’t heard anything about the team’s interest in fellow linebackers Mason Foster and Rolando McClain, but infers that they might be similarly uninspiring options for the Vikings.

Steelers Facing Decisions On Woodley, Worilds

The Steelers seem to have a continuous supply of talented outside linebackers in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme, but while depth is a good thing, the restrictions of the salary cap force difficult personnel decisions. Perhaps the most important one facing the Steelers is what to do about left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had a down season, finished on IR (calf) and carries a $13.59MM cap hit in 2014.

As it stands, the Steelers are approximately $10MM over the salary cap and facing the potential defensive losses of key UFAs Brett Keisel, Evander Hood and Jason Worilds, who is coming off a long-awaited breakout season. Stepping in for the injured Woodley, Worilds got 11 starts and registered 63 tackles and a team-high eight sacks. With young pass rushers in high demand, he is set to cash in on the open market, be it in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

Recently, team president Art Rooney II expressed his desire to retain Worilds, who told ESPN’s Scott Brown he has no interest in returning to Pittsburgh as a backup. That seems to render Woodley’s status as tenuous for two reasons. As it stands, the team has very little wiggle room financially (approximately $10MM over the cap). Additionally, conventional wisdom suggests 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones, whose arrow LeBeau believes is pointing up, will start at right outside linebacker next season.

Ostensibly, the club’s decision comes down to Worilds or Woodley, but in December,’s Chris Burke wrote why the Worilds-Woodley decision isn’t so cut-and-dried, explaining that Woodley has already restructured his six-year, $61.5MM deal ($17MM guaranteed) once before, resulting in him being owed more than $25MM in base salary the next three seasons. What’s more, if Woodley is cut before June 1, the team incurs a dead-money cap hit of $14.2MM, meaning it cannot simply dump Woodley to make room for Worilds, who will be snapped up in free agency in March.

Aside from begging Woodley to accept another restructuring, the most realistic scenario might be waiting until after June 1 to release Woodley, enabling the team to spread the cap hit over two seasons. Regardless the outcome, the Steelers will have to get creative in order to create financial flexibility in 2014 and beyond, and that undoubtedly means severing ties with established veterans.