The final weeks or months of Antonio Brown’s time with the Steelers promise to be as cringe-worthy as the rest of the offseason.
The Steelers are in talks with teams — the Raiders, Redskins and Titans are the most interested, according to ESPN.com — about trading the star receiver, but Brown is not going to make it easy on them.
The Steelers asked Brown to push back his $2.5 million signing bonus, which kicks in March 17, but he declined, according to Pro Football Talk. If the Steelers cannot get a deal done in the next two weeks, then the $2.5 million would be added to the cap hit, which will already be $21.1 million.
This is well within Brown’s rights and from his end could help expedite a deal out of Pittsburgh, where his relationship has soured with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the franchise. Brown, 30, has made that clear through social media potshots this offseason after he left practice and ignored the team as they prepared for their season-ending matchup with the Bengals.
That continued with this weekend’s interview with ESPN in which he laid out specific grievances against the team.
“Now everyone wants to have a meeting, they want to talk, he wants to invite me over to his house,” Brown said of coach Mike Tomlin’s attempts to reach him that week.
“It’s the biggest game of the season, you’re saying go home because I’m sore? If I’m going to do something within the team, we have to be on the same page, we have to understand each other, we’ve got to know what we set out to do.”
In doing so, Brown cannot be helping his trade value as potential suitors weigh the risk of his immense talent against his mercurial reputation. Brown had 104 catches for 1,297 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns last season.
Brown did not take “any blame” for the sour ending, though he did promise things would be different for his new team.
“If they want me to play, they’re gonna play by my rules,” he said. “If not, I don’t need to play.”