Steelers Rumors

Steelers Notes: Brown, Boswell

  • The Steelers appear set to explore the trade market for wide receiver Antonio Brown, but the return for the superstar may not be as lucrative as Pittsburgh hopes. Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (video link) surveyed multiple NFL executives and reached the conclusion that the Steelers are likely to receive something in the neighborhood of a third-round pick in exchange for Brown. While he’s still among the NFL’s best pass-catchers, Brown is heading into his age-31 season and will be due north of $15MM in 2019. Additionally, it’s fair to wonder if some rival clubs are skeptical of Brown given his recent off-field antics. Earlier today, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made it clear that he won’t simply give Brown away.
  • Speaking of embattled Steelers, kicker Chris Boswell is likely to face competition in training camp following a down 2018 campaign, as Colbert indicated to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Boswell only converted 65% of his field goal attempts last season, a percentage that ranked him 30th among kickers. He’s due a $2MM roster bonus on March 15, and the Steelers are presumably willing to pay that total given that Colbert says Boswell will be at training camp.

Latest On Steelers, Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown is on the trade block, but the Steelers won’t just give him away. When speaking with reporters on Wednesday, GM Kevin Colbert made it known that the Steelers will only consider offers with significant draft capital in return. 

By no means are we going to make a trade or any type of move that will not be beneficial to Pittsburgh Steelers organization,” Colbert said (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com).

That same message has also been relayed directly to Brown and his camp, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets. Brown, she hears, has been advised to stop airing his grievances in public and to stop hurting his trade value. Ultimately, if the Steelers cannot trade Brown, they say they’ll keep him under contract and aim to mend fences.

“We will not be discounting you on the trade market and we certainly will not be releasing you,” Colbert said of his message to Brown. “All of that being said, we will take a positive approach and if someone has a sincere interest and want to make a move – either a significant pick, set of picks, significant player, and picks, and we think it will benefit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the long run, then we are all in. If not, then we will make that decision at that point.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Won’t Tag Le’Veon Bell

The Steelers are not tagging Le’Veon Bell, according to GM Kevin Colbert. Bell was unlikely to return to Pittsburgh, but there was speculation that the Steelers might employ a transition tag on the running back in order to get something for him via trade

Le’Veon is still a great player. We can’t afford to use any other type of tags. Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year,” Colbert said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler).

Nothing has been easy for the Steelers and Bell, and the transition tag would have carried its own complications. For starters, the tag-and-trade scenario would have required Bell’s cooperation, and the running back likely wouldn’t have signed off on a scenario where the Steelers would have had control over his destination. The Steelers also would have pushed for Bell’s tag value to be $9.5MM rather than $14.5MM with the argument that Bell’s 2018 holdout reset the formula.

By allowing Bell to hit unrestricted free agency instead, the Steelers will avoid drama and assure themselves of getting a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 draft. Conversely, an unmatched transition tag would have left the Steelers with nothing in the way of compensation.

Bell, 27, had 1,291 yards off of a league-high 321 carries in 2017. He also reeled in a career-high 85 catches for 655 yards and scored eleven all-purpose touchdowns. His resume is extremely impressive, but many free agent running backs have been let down by lackluster offers in the past and Bell’s odometer may actually work against him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jon Bostic Wants To Stay With Steelers

  • Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic may have appeared in all 16 games this season, but his role was reduced as the season went on. While the journeyman may be able to find a bigger role elsewhere, he’s still hoping to stay in Pittsburgh. “Obviously this is my first year here and whatnot; hopefully we can make this place a home,” Bostic told Chris Adamski of TribLive.com. “It’s been a fun year; definitely didn’t go the way we would have planned (missing the playoffs). But that’s football. You can’t plan everything out. But I do (feel like the Steelers’ organization can be home).” Bostic is set to earn $1.8MM next season, and the team would be left with only $700K in dead cap if they released the 27-year-old.

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Steelers Agree To Trade Antonio Brown?

Antonio Brown‘s meeting with Art Rooney may lead to a divorce between the two sides. At the meeting, which was later joined by agent Drew Rosenhaus, GM Kevin Colbert, and executive Omar Kahn, everyone agreed the trade will be for the best,” a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). 

With that, the Steelers have more or less promised to find Brown a suitable trade. However, Brown has not been given the OK to speak to other teams, Mike Florio of PFT hears.

No trade can become official until March 13, but the Steelers can work out a tentative deal with another team between now and then. For example, the Ravens and Broncos shook hands on the Joe Flacco trade last week, though that trade will not be official for a few more weeks.

If Pittsburgh deals Brown before March 17, it would saddle 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.

Despite friction with key Steelers figures and being overshadowed by JuJu Smith-Schuster at times last year, Brown earned his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl selection as he caught 104 catches, 1,297 yards and a league-leading and career-high 15 touchdowns. The future Hall of Famer has been consistently dominant since the 2013 season and remarkably healthy in that span, too.

Even though he may have some red flags, Brown is unquestionably the hottest player on the trade block at this time. Of course, Odell Beckham Jr. could give him a run for his money in that regard if the Giants truly decide to shop him.

Brown has scared off at least one interested team with his tweets and he still may have to answer for a January domestic dispute. We’ll soon find out how badly those red flags will impact Brown’s market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.