The reason Antonio Brown didn’t play in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ de facto elimination game on Sunday wasn’t because of knee soreness but rather the result of a tumultuous week during which Brown argued with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and didn’t take part in the Saturday walkthrough.
This is according to a report by NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala on Monday, which cites multiple sources.
What’s more, according to Kinkhabwala, Brown left Heinz Field at halftime rather than stick around to watch his team edge the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 to keep its playoff hopes alive for a time. The Steelers nonetheless missed out on the playoffs when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns shortly afterward and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Tennessee Titans in the Sunday night game.
The report also says that the Brown issue came to head with teammates on Monday when head coach Mike Tomlin did not address Brown’s absence with players during a team meeting after they showed up to the field Sunday expecting Brown to play. According to Kinkhabwala, Tomlin will address the issue with the media Wednesday.
The team listed Brown with a knee injury Thursday and Tomlin told reporters on Friday that Brown was undergoing tests on his knee (though he did not state what types of tests or the nature of the knee injury).
Kinkhabwala reported that Brown and Roethlisberger had a disagreement during Wednesday’s practice and things went downhill the rest of the week.
She also said that an executive texted her and stated the situation is similar to the one the Steelers experienced with wide receiver and Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes. The team traded Holmes after multiple run-ins with the law, a four-game suspension for a substance-abuse policy violation and public disagreements with the team.
“Santonio Holmes was given many, many chances here in Pittsburgh until Mike Tomlin and [general manager] Kevin Colbert finally said, we’ve had enough,” Kinkhabwala said on the air. “And then Santonio Holmes was let go, obviously. So now in this situation, Mike Tomlin loves to say, ‘We will tolerate you until we can replace you.’”
Brown, 30, has been named first-team All-Pro each of the past four seasons and is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. In 15 games this season, he caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and led the league with 15 touchdown grabs (also a career high).
The Steelers finished the season 9-6-1 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2013.
—Field Level Media