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When Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was deactivated for Sunday’s game, everyone assumed it was due to a knee injury the team said he was dealing with during the week.
Instead, Brown was reportedly benched for drama during the week that included missing practices and meetings.
An explosive story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette, citing several sources, said Brown chose to sit out practices after a confrontation with an unspecified teammate. NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala said Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a disagreement on Wednesday.
Dulac and Bouchette wrote that Brown not playing in a must-win game against the Bengals “had nothing to do with any type of knee injury.” Brown also skipped Saturday’s walkthrough and team meeting, then showed up Sunday expecting to play according to Dulac and Bouchette. One Steelers player told the Post-Gazette the situation was “embarrassing” and “the worst I’ve seen.”
The Steelers’ season is over after they didn’t get the help they needed to make the playoffs. But the question becomes, can the Steelers bring Brown back after this?
Antonio Brown skipped practices all week, report said
The Post-Gazette said the entire fiasco started at a Wednesday walkthrough when Brown had a disagreement with a teammate. The Post-Gazette didn’t provide details of what happened or which of Brown’s teammates he was upset with, but said Brown “became disgusted and threw a football in anger at one of his teammates.” Kinkhabwala didn’t specify if Brown threw a football at Roethlisberger.
Brown then sat out practice the rest of the week, and a Steelers player told the Post-Gazette that it was Brown’s decision. Kinkhabwala confirmed that Brown skipped practices and meetings during the week.
Another part of the Post-Gazette’s story will draw some attention from the league office: The story said “Brown’s knee wasn’t an issue at all and was never tested.” There were reports throughout the week about discomfort he was having with the knee. Brown was listed as missing practice on Wednesday due to a coach’s decision, then that changed to “coach’s decision/knee” on Thursday.
Someone wanted to leak to the media that Brown’s knee was bad, presumably to cover up what was going on. The NFL doesn’t take kindly to teams lying on the injury report.
What will Steelers do with Brown?
Brown is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and a sure Hall of Famer. It’s also not the first time the Steelers have had off-field issues with him. The Post-Gazette said Brown skipped a mandatory meeting leading up to a Week 16 game against the Saints, but still played.
It’s a tough position to be in. Brown’s behavior, according to Post-Gazette’s sources, is unacceptable. He’s also an irreplaceable player. The Steelers looked out of sorts in a 16-13 win over the Bengals, though one player told the Post-Gazette that the situation last week with Brown and how the team handled it affected his desire to play in the game. It seems fair to wonder if all of the drama was a reason the Steelers didn’t play well.
Brown will turn 31 next season. JuJu Smith-Schuster has emerged as a legitimate star after two seasons. If the Steelers were going to move on from Brown, it would be easier now than ever before.
After Monday’s report from the Post-Gazette, it’s hard to see how Brown could return in 2019.
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