Given all of the drama the Pittsburgh Steelers had to endure this season, it’s a near-miracle that they were in the playoff race until the final week of the season.
Apparently, the latest chapter in a season full of issues for the Steelers includes their star receiver, Antonio Brown. He didn’t appear in the team’s season finale with a postseason berth on the line and it wasn’t for the reason most expected.
Instead of being sat to heal up a supposed knee injury, Brown was benched for what sounds like disciplinary reasons. Per The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown and Ben Roethlisberger were at odds last week, forcing the team’s hand in sitting him down.
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.
After making the decision to not practice the rest of the week, he was noted as questionable later in the week. He subsequently didn’t suit up on Sunday versus Cincinnati as a choice by the team after his decision to skip practices.
Now, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Brown has reportedly asked the Steelers to be traded this offseason.
Antonio Brown has requested a trade. Im told it was not a demand but he has asked to be dealt. Very unlikely Rooney would capitulate. Brown has issues with Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger. Feels like the coach is too aligned with the QB.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 1, 2019
This wasn’t the first issue with Brown this season. The talented pass-catcher was criticized early in the year for sulking a bit during the team’s 1-2-1 start to the season. He was displeased with the lack of wins, but also that JuJu Smith-Schuster began to emerge as Roethlisberger’s primary target in many situations.
Then, in October, news surfaced that Brown was the defendant in two lawsuits filed against him. One alleged that he almost hit a toddler with patio furniture from a condominium.
Of course, the Steelers also had to deal with the year-long holdout of Le’Veon Bell, in which seems to be leading to a divorce between the two parties. Throw in Big Ben’s inconsistent, yet veiled threats of retirement recently, and it was a perfect storm of issues with Pittsburgh this season.
Though Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin received his share of blame for these issues and the team missing the postseason this year, it is a wonder the team finished with a winning record, given these issues. After their 16-13 win over the Bengals in Week 17, the Steelers finished 9-6-1, but were eliminated from the playoffs after the Ravens beat the Browns.
Two of the top receivers in the NFL in Brown and Odell Beckham, Jr. have made headlines for a lot of the wrong reasons this year and their futures may be cloudy with their current teams. Even so, Brown was highly-productive again this year, finishing the 2018 season with 104 receptions for 1, 297 yards and 15 touchdowns.
We’ll see how the Steelers organization and its players react to this situation. In Bell’s case, many Steelers offensive linemen publicly aired out their frustrations earlier this season about his absence. Have they also had enough of Brown’s diva-like antics?