Steelers Rumors

Antonio Brown Scaring Teams Away?

Antonio Brown has scared off at least one interested team with his tweets, Peter King of NBC Sports hears. The Steelers star hasn’t been shy about airing his dirty laundry over social media and King suspects that other potential suitors are also viewing his outspokenness as a red flag.

Examining The Steelers’ Options With Le’Veon Bell

Beginning Tuesday, February 19, the Steelers will be able to place either the franchise tag or the transition tag on disgruntled running back Le’Veon Bell. They have until 4pm ET on March 5 to do so, which means that we may have to wait another couple of weeks for the next chapter of this story to be written.

But now seems as good a time as any to explore Pittsburgh’s options with respect to Bell. Although those options have been discussed at various points throughout the last year, our readers may find it useful to have them all consolidated in one place. Let’s begin with the least likely option, the franchise tag.

Franchise Tag

The fact that Bell sat out the entirety of the 2018 season does complicate things, because it makes it unclear as to what the value of either the franchise tender or the transition tender will be. The Steelers will argue that Bell is not eligible for the increase in salary that a third tag would ordinarily include because of his season-long absence, and Bell, of course, will fight that. We have long heard that any tag would result in a hotly-contested battle between Pittsburgh and the NFLPA.

Depending on who wins that as-yet hypothetical dispute, Bell’s franchise tender would be valued at either over $20MM or $14.5MM. Either way, that is too much money for the Steelers to pay for a player that most believe will sit out the 2019 campaign if he is franchised. Pittsburgh could put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Bell in the hopes that another club would submit an offer sheet, but any offering club would need to part with two first-round draft choices if the Steelers don’t match the offer — and they wouldn’t — so that is not a realistic option either.

The only way the franchise tag makes sense is if the Steelers are confident that they would be successful in convincing an arbitrator that Bell’s 2019 tag value should be $14.5MM instead of the $20MM+ figure, and if they are confident that Bell would not want to sit out a second consecutive year, thereby missing out on another lofty salary and perhaps limiting his free agent market in 2020. As of right now, those sound like very risky propositions from the Steelers’ point of view.

Transition Tag

This remains the most likely scenario. We have been hearing for months that the Steelers are planning on using the transition tag, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirms that is still the case. Again, there will be a salary dispute — Pittsburgh plans to argue that the tag value should be $9.5MM under the theory that Bell’s decision to sit out 2018 resets his transition tag formula, and Bell will submit that the value should be $14.5MM — but the transition tag in theory allows the Steelers to trade Bell in exchange for draft picks.

But as Dulac points out, that is not as easy as it might seem. Even if the Steelers agree to a trade with another team, Bell would still need to sign the transition tender before the trade can be consummated, and that would require a high level of cooperation from a player who has been anything but cooperative. Bell has previously said that he would be receptive to the transition tag because it allows him to negotiate in earnest with other clubs and land a fair deal, but he would certainly not like the fact that Pittsburgh would be largely controlling the process in this scenario.

The Steelers could match an offer sheet from another team and then try to trade him, but it is unlikely that the Steelers would be able to afford to match the offer sheet, and teams with more cap space can easily structure a deal that is impossible for Pittsburgh to match. And, even if the Steelers are able to match, they cannot trade Bell to the offering team without Bell’s approval, which again calls for cooperation that Bell is not expected to give.

Of course, it could be that other teams will be scared off by Bell’s holdout and his heavy workload and will extend him offers that the Steelers could match. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com pointed out earlier this month, there is still a faction of the organization that has a soft spot for Bell, and if his market does not develop as he expects, perhaps the Steelers could get him back on a club-friendly deal.

Let Him Walk

By allowing Bell to simply hit free agency without a tag, the Steelers can avoid a lot of headache and can assure themselves of getting a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 draft. If they put the transition tag on Bell, and if Bell ends up signing an offer sheet with another club that the Steelers do not match, Pittsburgh would not be entitled to any draft compensation. The Steelers could transition Bell — they are likely to wait until closer to the March 5 deadline to do so in order to control his rights for as long as possible — and then rescind the tag if they start to feel like a trade is not possible. As long as they rescind before Bell signs an offer sheet elsewhere, they would be eligible for the compensatory pick.

Keep Him Without A Tag

It would be borderline miraculous if the Steelers and Bell simply agree to a multi-year deal to the liking of both sides without a tag having been imposed, but crazier things have happened. Not much crazier, though.

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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.

Antonio Brown Discusses Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger, Contract

After it was revealed Antonio Brown would meet with Steelers owner Art Rooney II, the mercurial superstar took several shots at the organization on Saturday in attempting to explain the reasoning for wanting to be traded.

Answering a few questions from Twitter users, Brown addressed his issue with Mike Tomlin. Their relationship sustained a significant setback in Week 17, when a Brown practice dust-up led to a season-finale deactivation. They are not believed to have spoken since.

After the coach tell the team I quit while nursing some bumps then invite me to watch the show with same guys thinking I quit i can not stand with that!” Brown said, on Twitter (sic). “I’m the bad guy doe we miss post season think about it.”

Prior to reports coming out about the events that led to Brown’s current situation, he appeared on the Steelers’ injury report. During his postseason news conference last month, Tomlin addressed whether or not he believed Brown did quit on his team.

“The bottom line is we were playing a significant game and he didn’t do a good enough job of communicating or being available in the hours leading up to that performance,” Tomlin said in January. “Obviously, there are some things within that you can infer.”

Over the past 40-plus days, Brown has requested a trade and been involved in a domestic dispute. He’s denied any wrongdoing in connection with the incident.

The 31-year-old wide receiver then replied to a question about again wanting a new contract (Twitter link). Brown’s four-year, $68MM deal — the second-highest AAV among receivers — has three seasons remaining. Seeking another new deal, along with the off-field incident, would stand to further limit his market.

Brown’s Saturday salvos also included one at Ben Roethlisberger, even though the receiver said there is not a current conflict between he and his longtime quarterback. Roethlisberger criticized Brown during an in-season radio interview, and although Brown denied in the moment he was miffed about it, he voiced frustration about it now.

No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect!” Brown said, on Twitter. “He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game. #truth.”

Brown did also confirm he does plan to meet with Rooney (Twitter link). As has been the case throughout the offseason, much more will surely come from this ongoing saga.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Antonio Brown Likes Tweets About Roethlisberger

It had looked for a while recently like a reunion between the two sides was a real possibility, but actions like this are making those chances seem slimmer by the second. Roethlisberger isn’t going anywhere, and an argument between Brown and his longtime quarterback is apparently what sparked all of this back in Week 17. Crazier things have happened, but even though Brown will reportedly meet with Steelers owner Art Rooney soon, it still seems like a trade is inevitable.

Latest On Antonio Brown

Steelers owner Art Rooney II and wide receiver Antonio Brown will meet in Florida in an effort to clear the air, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Initially, Brown was hesitant to meet, but this could be a big step towards reconciliation for the two sides. 

Brown has not been bashful about airing his grievances in public and has let the world know that he wants a trade. If things can’t be worked out quickly, trade discussions could ramp up during the draft combine period in Indianapolis.

The Steelers are reluctant to trade Brown because he is one of the game’s best wide receivers and dealing him would result in a major dead money cap charge. Meanwhile, word on the street is that they are unlikely to even fetch a first-round pick for him.

Of course, Brown has not done himself any favors by saying he wants a new deal if traded. The Steelers have lost a great deal of leverage over the past couple of months thanks to Brown’s outspokenness and the Steelers proved their mettle last year when they held their ground in the Le’Veon Bell standoff. Ultimately, the Steelers may be willing to play a game of chicken with Brown until he’s willing to mend fences with Ben RoethlisbergerMike Tomlin, and other key figures in the organization.

One way or another, we should have a resolution by March 17, when Brown is due a $2.5MM roster bonus. If he is still on the Steelers’ roster on March 18, then he is likely to still be on it come Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Execs Envision Brown Fetching Day 2 Pick

Although Joe Flacco interrupted Antonio Brown‘s run as the NFL news cycle’s offseason centerpiece, the Steelers‘ drama with their superstar wide receiver remains the league’s top storyline. After Brown’s trade request, NFL executives believe there may be a significant gap between what the Steelers want to part ways with Brown (and take on a sizable dead-money chunk) and what other teams will pay. One NFL GM believes Pittsburgh, regardless of Brown’s age (31 in July) and off-field trouble, will still want a first-rounder, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Two other high-ranking execs said, via Fowler, Brown could fetch a Day 2 draft choice, while another predicted a fourth-round pick. Collecting a third- or fourth-round pick for a four-time All-Pro, while taking on more than $20MM in dead money, would be an incredible pill for the Steelers to swallow.

One team that may want Brown may not be able to acquire him, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeting the Steelers will not trade him to the Patriots in addition to having a predictable stance on an intra-AFC North trade.

Steelers Unlikely To Get First-Round Pick For Antonio Brown?

Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown tweeted a farewell to Pittsburgh fans today, which once again worked the football world into a frenzy. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, though, says that outside of the tweet, there have been no major developments in this saga (video link). Indeed, a report earlier this month indicated that Brown had reiterated his prior trade demand, and the substance of that report remains valid. Brown’s camp has not gone back to the Steelers to yet again reaffirm his desire for a fresh start, and the Steelers have still not given Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, permission to seek a trade on their own.

But Brown’s goodbye certainly seems to suggest that there is no going back now, and that Pittsburgh will end up trading him and giving him the fresh start he is seeking (although Rapoport is clear that the Steelers continue to hold all the cards and do not have to cede to Brown’s demands). But assuming the Steelers do end up moving him, what can they expect in return?

The team understandably wants to net at least a first-round draft pick in any Brown trade, but in a separate interview, Rapoport suggests that a second-round pick may be more plausible (video link). After all, the acquiring team would probably need to give Brown a new contract, which will surely be an expensive proposition, and his alleged involvement in a domestic dispute — not to mention the fact that he does not look like a positive clubhouse presence at the moment — could impact the Steelers’ return.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, who describes Brown’s deteriorating relationship with the Steelers in excellent detail, also said Pittsburgh may have to settle for a second- or third-round selection (or even a fourth-rounder, depending on the results of the league’s investigation into the domestic dispute).

Veteran NFL reporter Ed Werder believes the Steelers — assuming they have comparable offers from multiple clubs on the table — will deal Brown to the team that he is least likely to succeed with and that cannot hurt the Steelers, which would be reminiscent of what the Packers did when they traded Brett Favre to the Jets (Twitter link). At the very least, Pittsburgh wants to ship Brown to the NFC, and NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco says that the 49ers — who are apparently Brown’s preferred destination — have internally discussed the idea of acquiring him.

But Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests (via Twitter) that Brown has not done himself any favors by saying he wants a new deal if traded. As indicated above, his contract demands could scare some teams away, as part of the appeal in trading for Brown is his cap-friendly deal.

One way or another, we should have a resolution by March 17, when Brown is due a $2.5MM roster bonus. If he is still on the Steelers’ roster on March 18, then he is likely to still be on it come Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Antonio Brown Submits Trade Request

Is this the end of the line for the Steelers and Antonio Brown? On Tuesday, the wide receiver bid farewell to the Steelers, via Twitter.

Thank you SteelerNation for a big 9 years…time to move on and forward……….✌🏽 #NewDemands,” Brown wrote.

This has been building for a while, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweeting Brown is tired of being scapegoated for the Steelers’ problems and seeks a new start. Although Adam Schefter of ESPN.com adds (via Twitter) Brown has submitted a trade request to the Steelers, the ball will still be in the team’s court. It will cost the Steelers to trade the disgruntled superstar.

If Pittsburgh deals the soon-to-be 31-year-old wide receiver before March 17, it would tag the franchise with just more than $21MM in dead money. That number rises to $23.2MM after St. Patrick’s Day, because of a $2.5MM bonus due that day. A trade after June 1 would allow the team to avoid absorbing that cap hit all at once. No trade can be finalized until March 13, when the new league year opens.

On Tuesday, Brown was also found guilty for reckless driving after failing to appear in court, per Fowler (on Twitter). In November, police cited Brown for driving over 100 mph through a Pittsburgh suburb. Although it will only cost Brown $426.00, it adds to his list of off-field developments.

If the $20MM-plus in dead money were not enough of a deterrent for the Steelers to unload their four-time All-Pro first-teamer, Brown’s more significant off-field issue may well lower teams’ demand. One of the mothers of Brown’s children accused him of shoving her to the ground. Brown has denied any wrongdoing. Still, considering the other off-field trouble associated with Brown, it will be difficult for the Steelers to come close to getting market value in a trade.

Art Rooney II had gone from expecting Brown to be out of the picture by training camp to softening that stance. It appears Brown is trying to force the Steelers’ hand. This saga appears far from over.

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Latest On Steelers, Le’Veon Bell

The Le’Veon Bell saga with the Steelers has been seemingly going on forever now, and there’s still no end in sight to the drama. Another big fight between the two sides is brewing, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

The latest reports have Pittsburgh likely to place the transition tag on Bell, and Fowler writes that “several NFL sources paint the transition tag as the Steelers’ risk-reward plight that could involve the NFLPA, the NFL management council and an independent arbitrator.” The transition tag is essentially a non-exclusive franchise tag that pays less than the regular tag and allows the player to negotiate with other teams but gives the tagging team the right to match any offer.

Fowler writes that a legal battle could be coming with potential involvement from the players’ union, over whether or not the year that Bell sat out counts as a tagged year. Normally Bell would be in line for a significant raise even under the transition tag if he was tagged for three straight years, but Fowler expects the Steelers to argue that his year-long absence resets things, and that he’s only due $9.5MM under the transition tag.

Fowler’s report also adds steam to the notion that Bell could return to the Steelers next year. Most have assumed the Steelers would only tag Bell with the intention of trading him, but it seems at the very least possible at this point that the two sides could mend their torn relationship. “There’s a faction of the Steelers organization that has a soft spot for Bell”, according to Fowler, who seems to think there’s a very real possibility Bell hasn’t played his last game as a Steeler.

Fowler also writes that it won’t be as easy as people have been saying for the team to tag and trade Bell. “Only Bell actually signing the transition tag can enable a trade, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of NFL contracts. By doing so, Bell would forfeit his rights and give the Steelers control of where he goes and how he gets there. That’s not happening with a player with the conviction to sit out a year”, Fowler opines.

Since the tag situation is messy and doesn’t guarantee the Steelers would get back any draft picks, the “cleanest way” to ensure draft compensation is “letting Bell walk to earn a compensatory pick for 2020”, according to Fowler. With the tagging period right around the corner, we should know a lot more soon. With Antonio Brown and the team reportedly softening their stances toward one another, it’s entirely plausible neither player ends up leaving the team after all this drama.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.