Can Antonio Brown retire a Steeler? These former NFL players signed one-day contracts
After a roller-coaster career, Antonio Brown shared how he wants to end his NFL journey.
"Just wanna Retire A Steeler," the Pro Bowl wide receiver wrote Monday on Twitter.
Brown clarified his statement in a subsequent tweet, saying he isn't aiming to play for Pittsburgh but rather wants to end his career where it started.
The Steelers declined to comment on the possibility of Brown returning.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke about the possibility of welcoming back Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler, in 2020.
"We're always going to be interested in his growth and development as a man," Tomlin said on ESPN's First Take. "We'll be open to assisting him in that, but we have no current business interest at this time."
Brown is not currently on an NFL roster. He played the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and earned a Super Bowl ring in 2021.
He puzzlingly left the sideline in a rampage with his shirt off during the third quarter of a game last year. The display led to coach Bruce Arians giving him the boot.
The Steelers selected Brown in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft as the 22nd receiver taken. He was named to his first Pro Bowl his second season, after recording 69 receptions for 1,108 yards. That led to his landmark five-year, $42.5 million deal. He recorded six consecutive seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards with the Steelers.
After his 2018 season in Pittsburgh — when Brown led the league with 15 receiving touchdowns — he moved to the Oakland Raiders. He didn't appear in a single game.
Brown would not be the first player wanting to end their careers with a former team. Here are 10 players who signed one-day contracts to retire with their original teams.
An all-time great, Jerry Rice held 38 NFL records at the time of his retirement after a 20-year career. Rice was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1985 as the 16th overall pick. After a stellar rookie season where he had 927 yards, Rice led the league in yards and yards per game and earned his first of 13 Pro Bowl appearances during his sophomore campaign.
He became a household name alongside teammates Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott as he won three Super Bowls with the 49ers. He spent 16 seasons with San Francisco — a length of time that any football player would consider an amazing career — but still had gas in the tank. He joined the Oakland Raiders as a free agent in 2001 and bowed out of the game after spending time with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He signed a ceremonial contract with the 49ers in 2005 to officially hang it up in burgundy and gold.
It's extremely rare for a center to become a superstar player, but that's exactly what Jeff Saturday was for the Indianapolis Colts. He joined the franchise in 1999 as an undrafted free agent out of UNC. In his second NFL season, he started all 16 games. He was known as the reliable right-hand man for Peyton Manning. They went to the playoffs 10 of the 12 seasons Saturday was in Indianapolis, including capturing the Super Bowl XLI title over the Chicago Bears, which was perhaps an afterthought compared to defeating the mighty New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.
After the 2011 season, Saturday joined the Green Bay Packers, where his reliability earned him a sixth Pro Bowl appearance. But after that lone season, he decided to bow out before his steadfastness wore out and he signed a one-day contract with the Colts to say his goodbye in blue and white.
LaDainian Tomlinson was a San Diego Charger through and through. The running back, selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 draft out of TCU, came storming out the gate his rookie season. He started all 16 games and amassed 1,236 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns. From there, he had eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and was selected to five Pro Bowls. In 2007, he led the league in yards and touchdowns as the Chargers made it to the AFC title game.
After a career-low 730 yards in the 2009 season, he swapped coasts and signed a two-year deal with the New York Jets, helping them to an AFC title game of their own. When Tomlinson decided to walk away from the gridiron in 2012, he signed a one-day deal with the Chargers to remind everyone where his legacy lay.
Emmitt Smith is one of the greatest running backs of all time and cemented his legacy as a key member of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty. The former Florida Gators star was drafted 17th overall in the 1990 NFL draft and got to work right away, rushing for 937 yards his rookie season. Smith started all but one game as a rookie. He parlayed his success into 11-straight 1,000-yard seasons and led the NFL in rushing four times.
Smith also won three Super Bowls with Jimmy Johnson, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman. After 13 seasons with America's Team, he closed out his career with the Arizona Cardinals, where he nearly had a final 1,000-yard season before standing next to Jerry Jones to announce his retirement as a Cowboy in 2005.
Demaryius Thomas was a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who was drafted to Denver the same year Brown was selected by Pittsburgh. He spent eight full seasons with the Broncos where he had several standout moments, including catching Tim Tebow's Hail Mary pass to send the Broncos to the 2011 AFC divisional round and being a key target for Peyton Manning as Denver marched to a Super Bowl 50 win.
His success on the field, five-straight seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards, led to his landmark five-year, $70 million deal. After bouncing around to the Houston Texans and Jets, he retired as a member of the Broncos with a ceremonial contract in 2021 shortly before his death at age 33.
Donovan McNabb made his mark as an excellent quarterback and broke ground as a Black man at the helm an NFL team. When he was fresh out of Syracuse, the Philadelphia Eagles selected him as the second overall pick in the 1999 draft. The Eagles made the playoffs five straight years from 2000-2004 under his guidance. They made it all the way to Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 where they lost to the New England Patriots. During his days with the organization, McNabb had seven 3,000-yard seasons and helped the team welcome Michael Vick back into the league.
McNabb's time was up in the City of Brotherly Love and he spent a season each in Washington and Minnesota before walking away. He signed a ceremonial contract with the Eagles in 2013 because "Fly, Eagles, Fly" will always be his motto.
Fred Taylor helped put a franchise on the map. The running back was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1998 as the ninth overall pick out of Florida, following in the footsteps of Smith. At the time, the Jaguars were a developing franchise — established only five years prior — and needed some star power to help the rest of the league take them seriously. Taylor brought just that — albeit in a unique way with his quiet demeanor.
He rushed for 1,223 yards his rookie season. He had six other 1,000-yard seasons with the Jaguars and made his lone Pro Bowl in 2007 after the team made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. After amassing more than 11,000 yards with the franchise, he signed with the New England Patriots, where he spent two seasons. When the day came to say goodbye to the game, Taylor signed a one-day contract to forever be known as a Jaguar.
Torry Holt is another all-time great as the wide receiver was a key figure that gave life to the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf." He was selected by the franchise sixth overall in 1999 with high expectations out of NC State. And he lived up to them. Holt started all but one game during his rookie season and racked up 788 yards in the regular season before the team marched all the way to capturing Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans. Holt dominated the league during the rest of his career in St. Louis, including six straight seasons with 1,300- yards, an NFL record.
His 2003 season was especially bright as he led the league in receptions, yards and yards per game. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times before packing up and heading to Jacksonville for a less-than-eventful penultimate season. He was inactive at New England for a final season before bowing out with a one-day contract with the Rams in 2012 to cement his legacy.
Tim Brown was the face of the Raiders franchise, especially as the team moved from Los Angeles to Oakland in 1995. He was the sixth overall pick in 1988 after winning the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame. Brown was sidelined by injury after a solid rookie season with 725 receiving yards. It took him a few years to recover, but he was one of the most prolific players in the league after getting healthy. He had a breakout year in 1993 with 80 receptions for 1,180 yards and seven touchdowns. He had nine straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards and led the NFL in 1997 with 104 receptions.
His production slowed as he neared the end of his career with the Raiders, and his decision to join the Buccaneers for a season was met with great ire. Even though he did sign a one-day contract in 2005 to retire in the Black and Silver, it was perhaps not as celebrated as other stars on the list.
In a franchise that's already filled with legends, Frank Gore made an impact during his decade-long career with the 49ers. The running back was selected in the third round of the 2005 draft after starring at Miami. During his sophomore season, Gore showed what he was capable of when he rushed for 1,695 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging almost 106 yards per game. During his tenure, the 49ers weren't exactly in their glory years as they missed the playoffs from 2003-2010, but he was a powerhouse who did what he could to make an impact and was selected to five Pro Bowls.
After the 2014 season, he spent three seasons with the Colts, where he had another 1,000-yard season, before bouncing around to the Dolphins, Bills and Jets. He's not technically retired yet and started his boxing career with a knockout earlier this month. But he has announced he is done with the game of football and will retire with a one-day contract with the 49ers.
Derrick Alexander, WR - Chiefs
Brian Dawkins, DB - Eagles
Ike Hilliard, WR - Giants
Thurman Thomas, RB - Bills
Ryan Longwell, K - Packers
David Tyree, WR - Giants
Isaac Bruce, WR - Rams
Zach Thomas, LB - Dolphins
Bill Schroeder, WR - Packers
Jason Elam, K - Broncos
Larry Allen, OL - Cowboys
Jessie Armstead, LB - Giants
Tony Boselli, T - Jaguars
Art Monk, WR - Redskins
AJ Hawk, LB - Packers