Pittsburgh Steelers Make Antonio Brown Highest Paid NFL Wide Receiver
The chatter about star Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown potentially leaving town didn’t last long. The Steelers shot down such speculation just two weeks ago, following a controversial live Facebook video that put Brown’s decision-making and commitment to the team in question.
It’s arguable all doubt has been erased, as the Steelers have extended their top receiver with a record-setting deal:
Steelers and Antonio Brown have reached agreement on deal to make him highest paid WR in NFL, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2017
Per reports, Pittsburgh has made Antonio Brown the NFL’s highest paid receiver, confirming team claims that the Steelers want to do their part in making sure Brown “retires a Steeler”.
Brown’s deal is the biggest among star wide receivers in the league right now and is reportedly worth over $72 million over the next five years. The new contract also included a $19 million signing bonus.
One Down, Two to Go
The Steelers surprisingly entered this offseason with a shaky status, as Brown was reeling after his Facebook video went viral. With that unwanted exposure came claims that Brown didn’t always go 100% on certain routes or that he wasn’t a team player.
Pittsburgh publicly denied these claims and stated that they had every intention to keep Brown. This deal cements that belief and should allow the 28-year old Brown to thrive for years to come.
Extending Brown was one huge obstacle, but two more await. Star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has yet to confirm he will be back for the 2017 season, while star running back Le’Veon Bell has yet to be locked up to a long-term deal.
Bell should be the second stone to fall, of course, as the team just handed him the franchise tag for 2017:
Steelers use exclusive franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell. Means no team can sign him. One yr, $12 M and change.
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) February 27, 2017
The tag awards Bell a one-year deal worth $12 million should the two sides not come to a long-term contract agreement, while it also gives the Steelers and Bell plenty of time to potentially hammer that new contract out before next season rolls around.
With Brown and Bell firmly in place for at least 2017, the next obstacle will be ensuring Big Ben returns to the field. Considering his top two weapons will be back, there is growing optimism that he will.
Brown has certainly earned this massive new deal, one that is set to shell out $17 million annually. That makes for a solid $2 million increase over star Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, who previously held the league lead at $15 million per year at the wide receiver position.
More than just the money, this represents trust and loyalty in Pittsbrgh. The Steelers have torn up the league on the offensive side of the ball ever since Brown came around, while their commitment to a star wide receiver is oddly a refreshing change of pace.
Pittsburgh has long been reluctant to pay big money to star receiver talent, in the past letting big names like Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes and Emmanuel Sanders go, whether by trade or free agency.
Brown is a rare case, of course. In Brown the Steelers have one of the most versatile and explosive wide receivers in the entire league – if not the best, most complete receiver talent the NFL has to offer.
The production surely suggests as much, as Brown has ripped up NFL defensive backs to the tune of 100+ receptions in each of the last four seasons, while even threatening the single-season reception record with a staggering 136 grabs back in 2015.
A constant offensive force and a home run hitter from anywhere on the field, Brown was a must-have and the Steelers did well to both get the deal done and make their most explosive player happy.
Still Super Bowl Threats?
Keeping Brown in tow absolutely keeps the Steelers in the race for a Super Bowl run in 2017. Holding onto Le’Veon Bell was also big and making sure Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t randomly retire will surely be one final (pretty important) piece to the puzzle, but Brown is in his prime and still has many elite years to offer.
Brown’s new contract was a sign that the Steelers know he can help them win in 2017 and beyond, and as long as their commitment is evident across the rest of the roster just as it is here, they’ll have a realistic chance to compete for an NFL title.
The Steelers were among the best sleeper players for the league championship last year, and after advancing to the AFC title game, they’ll surely be a threat to take their progress one step further next year.
For now, oddsmakers are playing it cool, as some of the top NFL betting sites aren’t necessarily listing the Steelers as a favorite, but many like Bovada are keeping them inside their top-5. The Steelers currently boast decent +1400 Super Bowl odds at Bovada specifically, which actually ranks fourth in the league.
Considering the Steelers got to the AFC title game, lost to the eventual champions and figure to look much the same in 2017, they’re again strong bets ahead of the new NFL season.
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