Just as some commentators were speculating that his chances of staying with the Steelers had improved, Antonio Brown has requested a trade, multiple sources have confirmed. The news came on the heels of social media posts made by Antonio Brown:
Antonio Brown of course deserted his teammates in the week before the Steelers season finale against the Bengals after a reported dispute with Ben Roethlisberger. Shortly thereafter, Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II confirmed that Brown had not been responding to repeated phone calls.
Yet Antonio Brown was active on social media, deleting the Steelers from his profile, showing photo shopped himself with Jerry Rice wearing a 49ers uniform, trolling Mike Tomlin during his press conference with James Harrison and asking Steelers fans if they wanted him in Pittsburgh.
- Meanwhile news broke that Antonio Brown had been involved in a domestic dispute with the mother of one of his children.
Reports suggest that Brown pushed the woman to the ground and perhaps hurt her wrist, although the woman has filed no criminal charges and did not make a formal criminal complaint.
While most of the Steelers press corps and a sizable portion of the fan base has been ready to part ways with Brown, Steelers players have been more receptive. Ben Roethlisberger called for Antonio Brown to return, as did Maurkice Pouncey, as did JuJu Smith-Schuster. Cameron Heyward, who is one of the Brown’s more vocal critics, seemed to leave the door open to Brown returning.
Time to Give Antonio Brown What He Wants?
The issue of whether the Steelers should trade Antonio Brown has been a wrenching one. While Antonio Brown suffered a slow start to 2018, he was in All Pro from in Steelers loss to New Orleans.
Nonetheless, Antonio Brown crossed and important line in the week leading up to the Bengals game, and some players felt that the Steelers didn’t react strongly enough, although it appears Brown was testing Mike Tomlin to see if Tomlin really would bench him.
- It should be noted, that if one reads between lines of Art Rooney II’s comments, the Steelers appear to have at least investigated suspending Brown for his week 17 no show.
While the Steelers have offered no confirmation that they’ll look to move Antonio Brown, it is hard to imagine them trying to insist he stay in Pittsburgh.
But if today marks the no turning back point for Antonio Brown and the Steelers, then the question remains what exactly can Pittsburgh get in a trade?
- Antonio Brown is a Hall of Fame talent who has shown very few signs of slowing down
- Moreover, he has 3 years left on a very team-friendly, no guaranteed money contract
ESPN’s Adam Schefter lays out just how good Brown has been:
Antonio Brown has posted six straight seasons with 100 receptions, the longest streak in NFL history. His 837 receptions are the most through 130 career games in NFL history and his 9,145 receiving yards over the last six seasons are the most in a six-season span in NFL history.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 12, 2019
Ah with numbers like that visions of Kevin Colbert engineering a 21st century like equivalent of the Hershel Walker trade abound, don’t they? Alas, it is not so simple.
Yet in early January, Jim Wexell was reporting that one Steelers insider told him that the best they might get for Brown is a 3rd round pick. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted an anonymous NFL personnel man as saying the best Brown could net would be a conditional 4th round pick.
- It says here that the Steelers need to try to get the best value they can for Antonio Brown.
On paper, a swap of 1st round picks and Antonio Brown with the 49ers seems reasonable. But if the pundits have it right, and Antonio Brown’s antics have poisoned the well as much as they seem to have, then Brown won’t bring the Steelers much in a trade.
And if the Steelers are forced to deal Antonio Brown for a fire-sale like trade value, then they need to get him as far away from Pittsburgh as they can. That means not only sending out of the AFC North, but ideally out of the NFC, and to a struggling NFC team with an unsettled quarterback situation.
While it would be tempting to do this out of spite, the real reason would be to limit the likelihood that Brown’s Hall of Fame talents can be employed against the Steelers. There’s not much difference between a mid 5th or a mid 6th pick, so if that’s all you’re going to get, better to send Antonio Brown to the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions or New York Giants than to let him land with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills or say Denver Broncos.
- Antonio Brown officially wants out of Pittsburgh.
So Be It. The Steelers should oblige him by sending him as far into NFL oblivion as possible if Brown has already made it impossible for them to get fair market value for his talents.