First Call: Mike Tomlin nixes idea of Antonio Brown reunion with Steelers; return of Marc-Andre Fleury ‘possible’

Wednesday’s “First Call” has contract updates on a few big-name Pittsburgh Penguins. Mike Tomlin shoots down talk of Antonio Brown returning to the Steelers. The youth surge continues with the Pirates. And are Steelers fans really going to allow themselves to believe that Rob Gronkowski is retiring?

Plenty of Pens

Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada stopped by Pat McAfee’s show to talk some hockey. Of course, with McAfee’s Western Pennsylvania roots, there was plenty of Penguins discussion.

• Friedman said that a return of Marc-Andre Fleury to Pittsburgh isn’t out of the question. Fleury is entering free agency.

“I think there is a chance Fleury is coming back to Pittsburgh. I think it’s possible,” Friedman said. “Last year, Washington wanted Fleury really bad. And he wouldn’t be traded to the Capitals. Because he was, like, ‘I might want to go back to Pittsburgh. And I don’t think I could play for the Capitals.’”

Fleury’s reluctance to play for Washington isn’t new news. But the inference that an eventual return to Pittsburgh played a role in his thought process at the time might be.

Pittsburgh’s ability to pay Fleury enough to return and the presence of Tristan Jarry may make such a reunion impossible, though.

• Regarding Kris Letang’s contract talks, Friedman said he and the team are “about $1.25 million apart per year.”

• As far as Evgeni Malkin’s pending free agency, Friedman said the team and Malkin’s agents may be able to come in line on a three-year term for a new contract. That would align with Sidney Crosby’s remaining deal. But “the money wasn’t close.”

So much for that

Antonio Brown has expressed his desire to come back to Pittsburgh and retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

However, even in a ceremonial capacity (as Brown suggested), that seems like a long shot. Especially because of the bridges he burned on the way out of town after the 2018 season.

And as far as returning to play in Pittsburgh once more, forget it. At least that’s how coach Mike Tomlin put it on “The Pivot” podcast with former Steeler Ryan Clark.

“Y’all know that ain’t happening. In terms of putting a helmet on and running out of the tunnel and playing ball and stuff like that,” Tomlin said. “He’s moved on and we’ve moved on. We can sit around and chop that up like it’s a realistic conversation. But we know that’s not realistic.”

That being said, Tomlin gushed about Brown’s time with the Steelers.

“What I’ll say about A.B. is we had nine great years,” Tomlin said. “I appreciate that dude in ways I can’t explain. I won’t even bother to attempt to explain because it sounds like I’m defending him in some way, and to me from that standpoint, the nature of our relationship and what we all did together requires no defense. … I don’t think enough gets said about the will of that dude. About the work ethic of that dude. About the fearlessness that he played the game.”

Under Tomlin’s coaching in Pittsburgh, Brown had 837 receptions for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.

Gronk gone for good?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski said he is retiring. I think Steelers fans will believe it when they see it.

Perhaps better said, they’ll believe it when they don’t see him in a Bucs uniform at Heinz Field in Week 6.

Throughout his career, the former Woodland Hills High School player has tortured the Steelers. In seven regular season games against the Steelers, Gronkowski had 41 catches for 685 yards (97.9 per game) and scored 8 touchdowns.

Gronkowski retired prior to the 2019 season. But he came back in 2020 to reunite with former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa.

Gronk is now 33 and announced his retirement Tuesday along with a long Instagram post.

Keep it up

Bligh Madris and Oneil Cruz continue to reach rarified air early in their call-ups to the Pirates.

Madris homered as part of a 7-1 Pirates win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. He had three hits in his debut Monday night, too. Via the research of STATS LLC and Pirates broadcaster Joe Block, Madris is the second Pirates player since 1901 to record at least four total bases in each of his first two career games. Dick Stuart was the other. He did so in 1958.

As far as Cruz goes, he had an RBI single in the third inning. That gives him an RBI in each of his four career games (dating back to last year’s two-game recall) for a total of eight.

The RBI became an official stat in 1920. Via Elias Sports Bureau, Cruz is just the fourth player in Pirates history to record at least one RBI in each of his four career games and the first since Cookie Lavagetto set the franchise record with an RBI in five straight games to start his career in 1934.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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