Art Rooney II met with local print media members Wednesday and provided a greater look into the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers than usual.
Rooney addressed the Brown drama again and told reporters he hasn't been engaged in trade talks for Brown yet, but added that there aren't "that many signs out there" that point to A.B. returning to Pittsburgh at this time, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Brown's drama and most recent decision to sit out of Pittsburgh's season finale have recycled the growing question: Are the Steelers spiraling out of control?
"I don't know where it comes from," Rooney said of the question and perception of a franchise losing its identity amid relentless drama. "As far as I am concerned, it is nonsense."
Brown has been a source of drama for some time now, and Le'Veon Bell's contract dispute and decision to sit out the 2018 season fanned those flames, which grew stronger when Brown's latest internal dispute occured. As for Bell, Rooney is happy with the state of the position without the two-time All-Pro, saying the performance of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels has him feeling good about the position.
Rooney addressed that and more in his time with the local beat writers:
» Rooney defended Pittsburgh's decision to tag Bell, asking the rhetorical question of how frequent such a thing has happened in the NFL's history.
» On Brown's decision to sit out of the Week 17 game against Cincinnati, Rooney said: "I wish I could say that I talked to Antonio and understand what he was thinking," per The Athletic's Mark Kaboly.
» In defense of Brown, Rooney said the receiver was not a distraction "until the last week of the season ... the situation changed the last week of the season." Rooney went on to say Brown received his final game check despite choosing to sit out of the Week 17 game: "He probably did what he needed to do to avoid his last check being voided," he said, per Bouchette.
» Rooney said one of Pittsburgh's goals is to secure an extension for 36-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has one year left on his current deal.
» Rooney would not commit to making an effort to extend coach Mike Tomlin, who has two years left on his contract. "Those are things we'll get to later in the offseason," he said, per Bouchette.
» Rooney said he's talked to Tomlin about installing an assistant for the coach to help with with challenge calls on the field, but it wouldn't be their sole role, calling it "important," per Bouchette.
» Rooney acknowledged that Pittsburgh's defense was better, but the team still needs improvement from its secondary. Currently, veteran corner Joe Haden is Pittsburgh's best defensive back. Haden turns 30 in April.
» Rooney said Ryan Shazierstill wants to rehabilitate with the goal of returning to an NFL field at some point. In order to make that possible, Rooney said the Steelers would probably have to sign him to a player contract this year to allow him to continue on such a path, since Shazier's current deal expires at the start of the new league year.