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Steelers could achieve a feat not seen since 1989 with trade of Antonio Brown

The Steelers have only held two picks in the first-round of the NFL Draft twice in team history, the first in 1956 and most recently in 1989.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The national sports media rumor machine was in full effect on Wednesday after numerous reports emerged claiming that the Pittsburgh Steelers would announce a trade of Antonio Brown before the weekend. And with as many as four teams believed to be in the running for the wide receiver, the Steelers’ chances of finding someone willing to give up a first-round draft pick for AB look far better than they did just a few weeks ago.

While teams like the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams are no strangers to having multiple picks in Round 1, you would have to go back 30 years to find the last time Pittsburgh had more than one pick in the first-round. In 1989, it was a trade of linebacker Mike Merriweather to the Minnesota Vikings that gave the Steelers an extra pick in the opening round of the draft for the first time since 1956.

Much like the current situation with Brown, the relationship between Merriweather and the team that had selected him in the third-round of the 1982 NFL Draft had deteriorated so badly that there was little choice but to trade him. A salary dispute would led to the linebacker choosing to sit out the entire season in 1988, and the two sides traded far angrier words back and forth in the media than anything AB ever said about the Steelers.

At one point during his holdout, Merriweather would compare Dan Rooney to Joseph Stalin and suggested he would rather retire than continue playing for Pittsburgh, his agent Frank Bauer complaining to the media that his client felt disrespected by ownership. As recorded in the UP archives.

“He doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. It’s a principle thing for Merriweather. Rooney never came to the table the way he said he was going to. Merriweather just feels the community and everything is turned off to him.”

Although some experts believed the Steelers might find a team willing to part with a first-round draft pick for the linebacker, there were others who felt that his outspoken comments and demands to be one of the highest paid players at his position had hurt his value. An opinion that was only fulled by the remarks of Mr. Rooney a week before the trade.

“We’re not pursuing anything. We’re not out there hustling him. Our position has not changed on Mike. If someone calls us and says they’d make a legitimate offer, then we might consider it. People are not breaking down doors for Merriweather.”

Ultimately, a deal with the Vikings was agreed just minutes before Minnesota was due to make the 24th overall pick of the 1989 draft, but only after the Vikings had increased their contract offer. Merriweather got what he wanted with a contract that would pay him $700,000 a year and the Steelers received an extra first-round pick for what would turn out to be the last time in team history. Well, perhaps until now.

In a warning as to what could be expected when Brown finally does leave, Merriweather was far from complimentary about his former team once he had found a new home. As reported by Mike Nadel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on April 24, 1989.

Pittsburgh-Post Gazette

And for those excited about the potential two picks in the first-round could bring, it might be worth noting that the two players the Steelers selected in Round 1 were running back Tim Worley and offensive tackle Tom Ricketts. Worley was traded to the Chicago Bears in 1993 for a fifth-round draft pick having disappointed after a promising rookie campaign, while Ricketts would only last three seasons in Pittsburgh and was out of football altogether two years later.