- The rift between the Pittsburgh Steelers and star wide receiver Antonio Brown grows stranger by the day.
- After his mysterious absence from the Steelers season finale, reports came out that Brown’s relationship with the team was strained, and he had skipped practice leading up to the game.
- According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, some close to the situation believe the conflict stems from Brown being snubbed as team MVP earlier in the week.
The rift between Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers continues to look messy as more details emerge, and it now appears that Brown’s odd Week 17 absence may have stemmed from being snubbed for a team award.
Brown was conspicuously absent from the Steelers season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, a must-win game for Pittsburgh as they were fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive.
At first, it was reported that an injury had kept Brown on the sideline for the game, but as sources told Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown had actually been absent due to a strained relationship with the team, including the Steelers star wideout refusing to practice or attend team meetings after a dispute with a teammate.
Brown reportedly “threw a football in anger at one of his teammates,” prompting even more questions about what was happening between the Steelers and their perennial All-Pro. Further reporting from Mark Kaboly at The Athletic would conclude that Brown’s incident at practice was with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, with Brown throwing a football at his feet and refused to practice for the rest of the week.
From there, things only escalated, with rumours swirling that Brown had requested a trade and numerous cryptic posts on social media that seemed to hint that his relationship with Roethlisberger and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin weren’t all that well.
Now, according to Albert Breer at Sports Illustrated, some parties close to the situation are pointing to the fact that fellow wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster won the honour of team MVP for 2018 as the cause of the growing rift between Brown and the Steelers.
Brown had had his best game of the season against the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, just before the vote took place, going for 14 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Steelers came up just short, losing to the Saints 31-28 and taking their postseason destiny out of their own hands.
“He was just frustrated,” one source told Breer. “The MVP vote – it’s those things that set him off. He was unreal in New Orleans, we still lost, and the vote comes out and it’s JuJu. So he shows up for work, he’s not voted MVP, he’s in a bad way, and that carried over into the walkthrough.”
Further frustrating to Brown is likely the fact that the team was positioned to kick a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter before a Smith-Schuster fumble handed the ball back over to the Saints to end the game.
Pittsburgh was still only a few plays away from making the postseason, and the team’s 7-2-1 start to the year was proof that this iteration of the Steelers is capable of playing with the best teams in the NFL. That said, if the Steelers can’t clear things up with Brown, the Pittsburgh offence might see quite a bit of shuffling before the 2019 season kicks off.
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