Brown’s absence in Week 17 resulted in a benching for the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, and during the week Brown had a flare-up in a team setting.
Rooney said in the Post-Gazette interview that it would be “hard to envision” Brown as part of the team as it reports to training camp in late July.
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney told the outlet. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table. Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
A trade can’t be executed by the start of the new league year March 13, and perhaps more importantly, Brown’s $2.5-million roster bonus due March 17 would incentivize the Steelers to deal him.
The Steelers would absorb $21.12 million in 2019 dead money on the salary cap by trading Brown, but taking his $22.165-million cap charge off the books would offset that cost. Brown enters the third year of a five-year, $72.7-million extension signed before the 2017 season.
Rooney said in the interview that salary cap implications would not “box us into anything.” The team president added he and coach Mike Tomlin have not spoken to Brown.
Brown has not formally requested a trade. Sources close to Brown said the All-Pro has been frustrated with team dynamics for a while but has not mentioned the desire for a trade since the season ended.
Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree told ESPN that the Steelers have “family issues” that appear centered around Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who have combined for six consecutive 100-catch seasons. Roethlisberger said on his end-of-season radio appearance with 93.7 the Fan Pittsburgh that he wants Brown back and had a good conversation with the receiver in Week 17.
“We don’t really know what’s going on, we just know (Brown and Roethlisberger) are heated at each other,” Dupree said. “It’s not coach (Mike) Tomlin, it’s two grown men, two free players butting heads…We have to learn how to be together (as a team). We have to put it in the open and stop hiding.”