Steelers all-pro wideout Antonio Brown missed his team’s crucial Week 17 game against the Bengals on Sunday, which was a must-win to keep Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes alive. On the preceding Thursday, the team’s injury report listed Brown as having a knee injury, but according to reports from around the NFL media world, the alleged injury was simply a cover after Brown had a disagreement with QB Ben Roethlisberger and then disappeared from team activities. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which had the story first:
The disagreement occurred Wednesday morning during a routine walk-through practice that precedes their regular afternoon practice on the South Side. Brown was disgusted and threw a football in Roethlisberger’s direction, several sources said.
After that, Brown did not practice the rest of the week. According to a source, it was Brown’s decision not to practice with his teammates.
Brown got upset that Roethlisberger wanted to run a hot read over again during a walk-through, so coaches sent another player to run the play, a source close to the situation told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Brown got upset, left practice and talked with Roethlisberger afterward, telling the quarterback that he felt underappreciated and had issues with people in the organization, the source told Schefter.
That all seems pretty innocuous for a team with its back against the wall, but Brown made himself basically invisible after the Wednesday incident. He was reportedly seen in the locker room on Thursday, but did not practice the rest of the week, and chose not to go to Saturday’s walkthrough or team meetings. Brown also reportedly missed Pittsburgh’s exit meetings on Monday. However, according to the Post-Gazette, he was still ready and willing to play in Sunday’s game:
According to several sources, Brown showed up at Heinz Field expecting to play against the Bengals. That surprised several players, including one who called the situation “embarrassing” and “the worst I’ve seen.” That player said the entire situation and the way it was handled affected his desire to play in the game.
The Steelers didn’t need Brown (singular) to beat the Bengals on Sunday, but they failed to get the necessary help from the Browns (plural), who couldn’t manage to defeat the Ravens. For the first time since the 2012 season, Antonio Brown was not the Steelers’ leading wideout this year, instead finishing just behind the much younger JuJu Smith-Schuster with 1,297 yards in 15 games. Earlier this year, after the Steelers started 0-1-1, Brown seemed pretty grouchy with the team, and in a weird lawsuit from October, he was accused of endangering a child when he threw a bunch of shit out the window of his apartment after he got robbed. Brown will be 31 when next season arrives, and under the contract extension he signed in 2017, he’ll see a big jump in salary—assuming the Steelers still want him around.