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Steelers may be sending the rest of the league a message about Antonio Brown

The Steelers' concern over Antonio Brown's attitude toward statistics could have some ulterior motives.

Last week’s ominous remarks from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin may have been more than a warning to Antonio Brown; they may have been the first step in baiting the hook to trade the star receiver.

“That’s often why you see great players move from team to team,” Tomlin said in the wake of Brown’s Facebook Live fiasco. “Don’t want that to happen to Antonio Brown.”

Maybe Tomlin does. The recent leak to NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala, who is embedded with the Steelers, that the team believes Brown cares too much about his statistics and that he was “pouting” after the first touchdown of Sunday’s loss to the Patriots could be regarded as a deliberate effort by the team to slide Brown toward the trading block.

Brown has one year left on a contract that he has outperformed. After the Steelers slid money from 2016 to 2015 and from 2017 to 2016, Brown now expects a market-value deal.

Before the Steelers consider that, why not see whether another team makes a call? Six years ago, the Steelers unloaded Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes after the league imposed a four-game suspension under the substance-abuse policy. While Brown has gotten in no trouble away from the field, the Facebook Live incident coupled with team-leaked concerns about Brown’s willingness to put personal goals behind team goals could be enough to prompt the team to give the tree a mild shake and see what happens.

Don’t be shocked if the Steelers issue a public denial of the report from a media outlet that the Steelers partially own, since they may end up having to continue the relationship with Brown. Even if they do, the message apparently is sent: If you’re interested in Antonio Brown, make an offer.