Steelers say 'interest has grown' in Antonio Brown trade talks

INDIANAPOLIS — The last time Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert spoke publicly prior to this year’s NFL scouting combine, he mentioned that three teams had shown interest in mercurial star receiver Antonio Brown.

Speaking before a throng of reporters on Wednesday, Colbert provided an update.

“I would say that interest has grown,” the GM said.

And many teams — including those in the AFC, where the Steelers play — remain potential landing spots.

“Ideally, you’d want to trade him to somebody you’ll never play, but you can’t do that because in order to get to the Super Bowl, you have to play him anyway,” Colbert said in response to a hypothetical. “The less you are playing him, the better. But if a team you play twice a year comes through with the best compensation, you have to weigh all that, and we haven’t eliminated that at all.”

Colbert also left the door open for Brown’s return to Pittsburgh, which was surprising considering Brown and team owner Art Rooney II have already stated publicly in recent weeks that it’s best for both parties to move on.

Brown used those exact words in a tweet in which he posed for a photo with Rooney after they spoke about the issue.

“Antonio asked us if he could post a picture with Mr. Rooney and share his feelings about that,” Colbert said. “That was a great statement by him that was not mandated by anybody but him, so to me, that’s an indication of where he really is. All the other stuff … he’s a great player, he’s a huge contributor to us, and he will be if he continues with us or wherever he goes. He’s a great player.”

26 PHOTOS
Antonio Brown through his career
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Antonio Brown through his career
PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates celebrates during the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball after a catch against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on August 18, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Eagles 24-14. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 06: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates following a catch for a first down against the Baltimore Ravens during the game on November 6, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after making a catch in the second half against the New York Jets during the game on September 16, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Jets 27-10. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 10: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers makes a catch in the end zone that was over turned as a touchdown in the first half against Corey Webster #23 of the New York Giants during the game on August 10, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 20: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers plays against the Baltimore Ravens during the game on October 20, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles as he looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on August 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Panthers defeated the Steelers 10-0. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 12: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 30: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers signs autographs before the game against the New Orleans Saints on November 30, 2014 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 25: Team Carter wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 25, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 31: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown attends the 2015 NFL Honors at Phoenix Convention Center on January 31, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a 2-point conversion during the 2nd quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 27, 2015: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles at fans prior to a game against the Baltimore Ravens on December 27, 2015 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore won 20-17. (Photo by: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18: Wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles as he looks on from the sideline during a National Football League preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on August 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Steelers 17-0. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to playing the New York Jets at Heinz Field on October 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (84) catches a pass during warmups before the NFL Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 13, 2016, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers with a final score of 35-30. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball after a catch against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at New Era Field on December 11, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after scoring his second touchdown during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 01: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 12: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) takes a selfie with a fan before the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts on November 12, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (84) looks on during the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 16, 2017 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) looks on during the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 14, 2018 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 03: NFL player Antonio Brown attends the 2018 Big Game Weekend Hearing Mission With Starkey Hearing Technologies on February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for Starkey Hearing Technologies)
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By complimenting Brown and leaving open the possibility of a return, Colbert may be trying to let interested teams know the Steelers don’t have to trade him, and thus, won’t be giving away a 30-year-old who has been one of the NFL’s most prolific receivers over the past decade.

“We’re always going to look at Antonio Brown as a great player, a great contributor, and if there’s something else out there that can offset [trading him away], well good,” Colbert said. “If not, then we’ll look at how — if we don’t trade Antonio and he’s going to be back with us — what may be the benefits and what may be the drawbacks of that. We’re always going to balance that out.”

Regardless, Colbert expects talks to keep heating up at the combine, where general managers, coaches and front-office executives congregate yearly to evaluate draft prospects and conduct business.

And the way he explained this sure sounded like a man making it clear that he had a genuine asset in Antonio Brown, and that teams interested in acquiring said asset better come correct.

“As you come out of the combine, different teams have different feelings about possibilities of not only a trade, but what they might be able to draft, and that can go positively or negatively,” Colbert said. “But one thing that doesn’t change is Antonio Brown’s value, not only to the National Football League, but the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

8 PHOTOS
Teams most likely to land Antonio Brown
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Teams most likely to land Antonio Brown

8. Indianapolis Colts: +1300

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

7. Dallas Cowboys: +1100 

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images)
6. Miami Dolphins: +1000

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: +900

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
4. Arizona Cardinals: +700

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
3. Oakland Raiders: +600

Via Bookmaker

(Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
2. New York Jets: +500

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
1. San Francisco 49ers: +200

Via Bookmaker

(Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
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