New England Patriots

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 23: Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a touchdown during the second half against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – DECEMBER 23: Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a touchdown during the second half against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

There’s a real chance that Antonio Brown plays for a team other than the Pittsburgh Steelers next season.

Steelers owner Art Rooney II spoke on the record to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week, and while he didn’t directly say anything about Brown being on the way out, he did say it’s “hard to envision” Brown being with the team at training camp. Rooney admitted the Steelers definitely wouldn’t do something as drastic as cutting Brown, but he’s certainly leaving the door open for a blockbuster trade.

“Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen,” said Rooney. “We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”

Brown ostensibly gave his own cryptic response to the story, tweeting a photo of himself with Rooney with the caption “Good Business #boomin”.

Rooney may have hurt the Steelers’ chances of getting a truckload of draft picks for Brown by tacitly admitting they’ll hold onto him before cutting him. But once the underachieving Amari Cooper went to the Dallas Cowboys in a trade with the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick, and had great success with them in the second half of the season, a first absolutely has to be the floor for a Brown deal.

There will be enough teams calling the Steelers that they will have a healthy market for the four-time All-Pro receiver. You have to think it will take multiple first-round picks for a player of his caliber, even when he’ll be 31 years old when training camp kicks off.

As for the Patriots’ chances of landing Brown? Can’t say zero. But can’t expect Bill Belichick to give up multiple first-rounders, either. That would be stunning, especially when the Pats are in a spot where they’d be better served replenishing their system with high draft picks over the next couple of years. But it’s certainly fun to debate.

Rooney just opened the door for plenty of that.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.