- An ugly rift has emerged between the Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
- According to reports, Brown got into a dispute with a teammate during the week, skipped practices, could not be contacted, then showed up to the team’s Week 17 game but was made inactive.
- According to reports, Brown has requested a trade from the team and has still not spoken to head coach Mike Tomlin.
- It’s unclear if and how the Steelers will try to repair the situation, but trading Brown may be difficult.
Things between the Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver Antonio Brown continue to get uglier with the regular season over.
Brown did not play in the Steelers’ Week 17 game, a 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. It was reported that he was questionable during the week with knee soreness, then was later officially ruled out.
However, on Monday, Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Brown was benched for disciplinary reasons after an altercation with a teammate. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly later wrote that Brown had thrown a football at the feet of Ben Roethlisberger.
According to the Post-Gazette, Brown did not practice the rest of the week, and when he showed up on Sunday to play the Bengals, many teammates were surprised. Ultimately, Brown never warmed up and did not play.
On Tuesday, several reports confirmed that Brown had requested a trade from the Steelers because of lingering issues with the team. As news broke, Brown had some fun chatting with San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle.
— AB (@AB84) January 1, 2019
On Wednesday, Tomlin addressed reporters and said that on Friday, Brown still complained of knee soreness, so Tomlin told him to get an MRI. Brown apparently never got the MRI and went home. Brown then couldn’t be reached by Tomlin on Friday or Saturday, and after Brown skipped the team walk-through on Saturday “it became altogether different,” according to Tomlin. Though Brown showed up on Sunday, and his agent called Tomlin telling him Brown wanted to play, the team decided to make Brown inactive.
Tomlin told reporters that he still has not spoken to Brown, but that the problems would be addressed. He said Brown had not requested a trade.
Things took a turn from there. During Tomlin’s press conference, Brown tweeted out a message:
Happy New Year. Be great. pic.twitter.com/QLna1LRncL
— AB (@AB84) January 2, 2019
Then, Brown appeared in an Instagram video with former Steelers linebacker James Harrison, promising an exclusive interview. Harrison has been a vocal critic of Tomlin’s.
Antonio Brown about to have an "exclusive interview" with former #Steelers LB James Harrison. [Via Instagram]
James Harrison has been highly critical of Mike Tomlin.pic.twitter.com/uZhLDXliHr
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 2, 2019
It’s unclear where the situation goes from here. If the Steelers trade or cut Brown, they will owe him some money and he’ll leave some dead-cap space on their books. The money they pay him whether he’s on the team or off of it in 2019 is basically the same ($US22 million to $US21 million), and they would gain financial flexibility down the line.
Of course, they would also have to allocate money to finding a replacement for him, via the draft, trade, or free agency, meaning they would be paying even more to not have Brown on the team, all while missing his All-Pro-level production.
Given how the team reacted to Le’Veon Bell’s holdout in 2018 – e.g., calling it a “distraction,” raiding his locker – it’s possible that the Steelers will conclude that it’s better not to have Brown around than to try and repair the situation.
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