Antonio Brown saga latest indication Steelers completely combusted after beating Patriots

Alex Reimer
January 02, 2019 - 8:58 am

It doesn’t look like the turmoil in Pittsburgh is going to end any time soon, and in fact, it could lead to one of the most talented rosters in the AFC getting blown up.

Even though the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, any turbulence in the Steel City is good for the Patriots. This offseason, one of the NFL’s perennial powerhouses may be too busy conducting damage control than improving its roster.

As it turns out, star wideout Antonio Brown did not miss Sunday’s game against the Bengals due to a knee injury. Instead, he was benched following a reported practice altercation with Ben Roethlisberger, and then went AWOL. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown “grew disgusted” during practice last Wednesday and threw a football at Roethlisberger. ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Brown didn’t appreciate Roethlisberger wanting him to run a hot read over again during a walk-through. A source told Schefter Brown doesn’t feel sufficiently appreciated in Pittsburgh. 

Brown did not participate in practice for the rest of the week following his apparent blow-up. Despite that, he still showed up at Heinz Field Sunday expecting to play. “That surprised several players, including one who called the situation “embarrassing” and ‘the worst I’ve seen,’ reports Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That player said the entire situation and the way it was handled affected his desire to play in the game.”

Wow. Roethlisberger downplayed the incident on his weekly radio show Tuesday, but acknowledged some of his teammates were frustrated with Brown’s elusiveness. "Like I said, I'm blessed to play with (Brown) and I consider him one of my closer friends,” he said, per ESPN. “I know guys that are frustrated. I think the biggest thing is, some of the guys that I've talked to, they tried to reach out to him and they haven't heard back.”

With three years remaining on his contract, the Steelers would be foolish to trade Brown. He remains perhaps the most talented wide receiver in the NFL, and it’s impossible to see how the Steelers would be better off without him. This incident speaks to the undisciplined culture in Pittsburgh, which goes back to Mike Tomlin. For two straight years, the Steelers have been inundated with controversy at the end of a disappointing campaign. 

It looked like the Steelers were going to turn their season around following their 17-10 win over the Patriots in Week 15. But then they fell to the Saints the following Sunday, thanks in part to Tomlin’s idiotic decision to fake punt on a 4th-and-5 with the lead late in the fourth quarter. JuJu Smith-Schuster, whom his teammates voted as team MVP instead of Brown, also fumbled with one minute left to effectively end the game. 

The Steelers started 7-2-1, but thanks in part to three straight brutal late-season loses to the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders, their playoff hopes were in the hands of the Browns in Week 17. Though Pittsburgh squeaked past the Bengals to close out the year, the Ravens beat the Browns, ending the Steelers’ season in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible

We’ve spent much of the last year obsessing over Patriots Palace Intrigue. But Pittsburgh is where it seems to truly be coming apart. And like so many other teams, a win against the Patriots was the start of doom. 

Related: It was perfect to see Steelers' season end in gut-wrenching fashion