The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this season with expectations of competing for a spot in the Super Bowl, but rampant internal dysfunction and underwhelming play on the field caused them to miss the postseason completely.
Le’Veon Bell’s holdout, which eventually became him sitting out the entire season, dominated headlines early in the season as some of Bell’s teammates called him out for effectively abandoning them. Eventually, Bell talk died down after it became official that he wouldn’t play this season, but the season came to a close with controversy involving the future of its other top offensive star.
Antonio Brown missed the season finale against Cincinnati after an altercation in which he threw a football at Ben Roethlisberger in practice and then sat out the remainder of the week on his own accord, resulting in his benching last Sunday. As more and more reports on the incident poured out of Pittsburgh, Brown apparently made it known that he would like to be moved by the Steelers.
The issue for Brown and the Steelers here is that after restructuring his contract last year, if he’s traded before June 1, 2019 Pittsburgh would be left with $21 million in dead cap — if dealt after June 1, it drops to $9 million in dead cap. That makes it extremely difficult to move him any time in the immediate future and means this issue will almost assuredly linger through the NFL Draft and into the summer, if not into next season.
The Steelers have JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was named team MVP by his teammates, ready to take over as a No. 1 receiver, but it will be fascinating to see if they budge on this request to part ways — which seems best for all parties — or try to keep him around and make things work.