It's unclear whether or not four-time first-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown would be welcomed back into the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room. However, there appears to be at least one place where players would welcome him, and that's in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room.

At least, that seems to be the case on social media.

The whole Brown-to-49ers speculation kicked off when tight end George Kittle reached out to Brown via Twitter following reports of the receiver's displeasure with his current team. Actually, it was Brown's response to Kittle which kicked off speculation from fans and the media.


Even cornerback Richard Sherman responded to the exchange.


Brown has since started following the 49ers and their players on social media while unfollowing his current team. The action seemingly made it clear to the Steelers that he would prefer to play elsewhere. Brown not showing up for a team meeting and personal evaluation session the day after the Steelers' finale, and then not returning calls from ownership and head coach Mike Tomlin likely made his stance even more apparent.

More recently, tackle Joe Staley, one of the most respected players in the 49ers locker room, presented a subtle wave to Brown via Twitter. It could be an indication that San Francisco's most tenured player either would welcome the veteran receiver with open arms or that he merely loves using emojis. We'll let you interpret it any way you want.


If it is the former on Staley's part, it would indicate that 49ers players are onboard with having Brown as a teammate and adding his production to the offense. While head coach Kyle Shanahan downplays the need, San Francisco would greatly benefit from a red-zone threat like Brown. He has reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark in seven of his nine NFL seasons, including 104 receptions for 1,297 yards with a league-leading 15 receiving touchdowns through 15 games in 2018.

All the wooing in the world on the part of 49ers players, however, makes no difference to the Steelers. Team president Art Rooney II has already come out and said Pittsburgh has no intention of releasing Brown, which means the receiver's ultimate destination won't be his choice. That doesn't mean they aren't willing to listen to offers.

How willing are the Steelers to move Brown? Rooney went as far as to say he can't envision the receiver being with the team when players report to training camp in July.

"As we sit here today, it's hard to envision that," Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week. "But there's no sense on closing the door on anything today. There's snow on the ground. We don't have to make those decisions right now."

Then there are the salary cap implications of trading Brown, which would be a costly move for the Steelers.

"That has to be taken into consideration," Rooney continued, "but, as I sit here today, I'm not going to say that's going to box us into anything. If we decide something has to be done, we'll figure out how to deal with that."

The Steelers appear to be more than willing to part ways with Brown. So the real question is: Are 49ers management and the coaching staff willing to add him to the locker room?

That's where the players' social media interaction with Brown becomes a factor. The 49ers see themselves as having a strong locker room. They have created a culture in the building which is attractive to players. If Shanahan and general manager John Lynch see Brown as a fit on the football field, and there is no reason to believe they do not, then the only question that remains is his fit in the locker room.

Shanahan and Lynch will likely consult with a few players before making any franchise-changing trade decisions. Three leaders in the team's locker room have seemingly given a Brown-to-49ers scenario their blessing, especially since it would mean improving on the football field.

The only remaining question would be what the Steelers are willing to accept in return for Brown. The 49ers currently own the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft. That would be a steep price for a player who will be 31 years old at the start of the 2019 season and for a team seemingly desperate to add a pass rusher. Anything else might be more reasonable.

While teams can agree to a trade at any point, nothing can become official until the start of the new league year on March 13.