Steelers: Bucking history and talking contracts with Brown and DeCastro

Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) walks off the field before the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) walks off the field before the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers are trying to remove some future financial headaches during camp. They’re talking contract with DeCastro and, contrary to their history, Brown too.

The Steelers have long been in a cap nightmare. In fact, this nightmare has gone on so long we’re all pretty sure it’s just reality now. This is just the way things are. The Steelers will have no money. This isn’t strictly a bad thing. It means they have players worth money. That’s great during the season, but the offseason is another story.

So it’s always prudent for the Steelers to remove as many of these headaches as proactively as possible. Pursuant to that they’ve begun some contract talks with DeCastro and Brown. The talks with Brown are contrary to Colbert’s traditional categorical refusal to do extensions with players with more than a year on their contract.

But let’s focus on DeCastro first. According to John Perrotto of, DeCastro said, “I’m just trying to play football and let the agent deal with that. I’ve got one year left. I know that for sure. Just prepared to deal with that. That’s all I can control. It’s a business. That’s the way it is. Both sides have to play their little game. How it works out, we’ll see. I’m just here to play ball.”

He went on but the theme is that he claims he’s not worried about it but he seems a little annoyed with the whole thing. It’s an interesting bunch of contradictions. This particular interview is essentially about him being annoyed by every aspect of the contract concerns while also being concerned about a contract, while also insisting it’s not on his mind.

But the Steelers have officially begun discussing DeCastro’s contract. At this time DeCastro is the only player they are “officially” talking contracts with. The Steelers are contorting and playing with words in order to frame their talks with Brown as consistent with their past approach. But more on that later.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported after a long period marked by a lack of progress on his contract things have started to progress. It seems this may lead to the largest contract of any guard in the NFL.

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Though the Steelers are not in a position to be handing out giant contracts lightly this is one instance where it might be justified. DeCastro was an All-Pro guard at 25 so he’s already great and the Steelers can lock him into a deal that will keep his best years in the black and gold. DeCastro is smart, strong, and has the athleticism and spatial awareness to pull and be effective in space.

But what about Brown? How are the Steelers talking with both, but only officially with one? Well, because of some technicalities. Recall last year, the Steelers were able to shift money in Brown’s contract so that he made more up front. He’s still technically on the same contract, it’s just the terms have changed. But is that really the same contract?

Regardless, Brown said recently, according to Tyler Dragon of, “You have to take care of your guys. If a guy under performs, you get rid of him. If a guy over performs, you take care of him. I’m confident in the Rooney family and the Pittsburgh Steelers to get something done.”

So the Steelers have begun talking contracts with Brown. But at the same time Colbert has said, according to ESPN’s Jeremy  Fowler, “We believe in our philosophy. I don’t see that changing, but I’ll never address a player individually.”

But that’s what they’re doing, right? Well, here’s the semantic distinction the Steelers are making. Say a player has 3 years left in their contract, 6 million each. The player is worth 10 million. The Steelers get 4 million dollars of play for free. Hence the unwillingness to discuss contracts. The unwillingness also prevents holdouts and drama.

But Brown clearly deserves more money. So how can the Steelers get Brown what he deserves without breaking their own rules?

Well recall that 3 year, 6 million dollar contract. The Steelers won’t change it until there is 1 year left. So what they do is shift the money. So they take money they’ll earn later and move it to now. They change if from year 1, 6 million and year 2, 6 million and year 3, 6 million. They change it to year 1, 9 million and year 2, 9 million, and year 3, 0 dollars.

Then that last year with no money never comes because they negotiate an extension after year 2. In the end they take a de jure 3 year contract for 6 million per year and make it a de facto 2 year contract for 9 million per year. But the Steelers feel that as long as the contract doesn’t change in terms of overall money and years, renegotiating the distribution of that money is irrelevant.

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Whether that’s true or not it’s another example of how Colbert has expertly navigated the cap crunch the Steelers have experienced over the past couple years. The main takeaway from all this is that, whatever technical junk is going on, it seems likely at the point Brown and DeCastro are going to be in Pittsburgh for a long time.