On Wednesday, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he hasn't spoken to wide receiver Antonio Brown since the team's final regular season tilt. During Tomlin's press conference where he fielded questions about Brown, the receiver elected to stay silent on James Harrison's Instagram, despite indicating he would give an exclusive interview.
But as the offseason looms, with more questions than answers in Pittsburgh, we haven't heard the last of this issue. The question of what the future holds for Brown may dominate the offseason.
In fact, sources say the Steelers are expected to consider trade requests for Brown prior to the start of free agency. They have not closed the door on the thought of Brown playing for someone else, provided they could receive adequate compensation.
This would not be a surprise.
Tomlin was asked about Brown breaking the trust of his teammates by not communicating properly prior to their Week 17 game, essentially making himself inactive.
"When we're talking about the darkest hour, we're talking about playing to win a game and needing other dominoes to fall for us to be in the tournament and the guy not communicating -- that is a real element of discussion, certainly," Tomlin said.
And so there will be discussions.
The deadline for a deal would be the $2.5 million roster bonus Brown is due on the third day of the league year. If the Steelers trade him, it would save $1 million in salary cap space (roughly $22 million to keep him, $21 million cap hit to deal him) and create $15 million in cash savings.
Brown has not yet met with key members of the organization regarding his actions following the season. It's not yet clear if he'll do so.
After canvassing a handful of rival general managers about Brown, two points become clear: the first is, the Steelers will not give him away, ensuring they will ask for a lot. Two GMs believe the price would be a first-round pick, while another pegged it as multiple high picks.
The other point is they've dealt with similar issues for many of their talented players that perhaps they are able to smooth this over before the start of the 2019 season. One rival decision maker said, "Watch this get calm, and they'll figure it out. It's what they do."