Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still hasn’t talked to disgruntled wideout Antonio Brown but has left the door open a crack for a reconciliation.
In a wide-ranging discussion with Pittsburgh-area media on Wednesday, Rooney discussed a number of topics, including the future of coach Mike Tomlin.
But much of the conversation focused on Brown.
Rooney said he would be willing to discuss Brown’s return to the Steelers, but there are “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen.” Rooney told reporters he and Brown have not talked since the end of the season and he doesn’t expect him to return.
“I would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk to him and understand where he is,” Rooney told the reporters. “Maybe that will happen at some point, who knows?”
Brown didn’t play in Week 17 after missing multiple practices in the preceding week. Rooney said he wasn’t a big distraction to the team until that week.
“I’m not gonna sit here and disparage Antonio,” Rooney said during the session. “You have to remember he’s been one of the most productive receivers in the league for a long time now. He’s helped us win a lot of games over the last few years. Was it always done the way you’d like to see it done? No.
“But I don’t think he was a major distraction to the team up until the last weekend of the season. The proof is in the pudding for the most part.”
It is expected the Steelers will trade Brown, though Rooney said the team has not engaged in any trade talks.
Soon after Rooney talked with the media, Brown tweeted his intention to air his side in an interview.
“Clearly they feel indifferent about me seeing all these reports the big interview coming! watching my teammates, fans and organization show me how they really feel! Stay Woke,” he wrote.
Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-best 15 touchdowns in 2018. He has topped 100 receptions in each of the past six seasons and has seven 1,000-yard receiving campaigns during nine years with the Steelers.
Concerning another disgruntled player, Rooney said he never expected running back Le’Veon Bell would sit out the entire season in a contract dispute. Rooney said he is content with the Steelers’ backfield situation, putting his trust in James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.
Tomlin also was a main discussion point, with Rooney not committing to an extension of his contract. The coach has two years left on his contract.
“Those are things we get to later in the offseason,” Rooney said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
The Steelers finished 9-6-1 this season and missed the playoffs, despite being in the driver’s seat for a postseason berth much of the season. In his 12 seasons with the team, Tomlin has a 125-66-1 record.
Rooney added he doesn’t expect any other coaches to depart, and that the Steelers will concentrate on filling staff vacancies.
He said a contract extension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an offseason priority, however.
Rooney also addressed the status of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who suffered a serious spinal injury 13 months ago. Shazier has maintained he wants to one day resume playing, and Rooney confirmed that Shazier continues to rehabilitate with the intention of putting on the uniform again.
Shazier will be a free agent in March, and Rooney said the team is willing to comply.
“To the extent he wants to do that, we’re open to working that out,” Rooney said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
—Field Level Media