Leading into the Steelers’ final game of the season last week, many factors were at play which made the game crucial to the team’s season.
To make the playoffs, they needed to beat the Bengals and the Ravens had to lose to the Browns.
After taking care of Cincy, the team and their fans remained in Heinz Field to watch the conclusion of the Browns – Ravens game. The Browns marched down the field, aided by two amazing catches, and were poised to at least be in field goal position for a possible game winning field goal. But Baker Mayfield threw an interception on fourth down and the season was finished for the Steelers.
Or so everyone thought.
The day after the game, reports began circulating that Antonio Brown, who missed the game due to a knee injury, was absent not because of an injury but rather because of his conduct.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown had a blow up with QB Ben Roethlisberger last week and then missed practice for the remainder of that week. After these reports surfaced, rumors erupted around Brown requesting a trade.
The altercation that led Antonio Brown’s benching last week was with Ben Roethlisberger. Im told it was fairly ugly and the WR was totally in the wrong. He went AWOL essentially for the 3rd time this season dating back to training camp
Since that time, we’ve heard more rumors about Brown’s alleged trade request, players speaking out against him, media pundits blasting him and even Roethlisberger going on air on 93.7 The Fan to deny reports of a beef between him and his star receiver.
Big Ben called Brown “an incredible talent”, “one of my best friends on the team,” and stated “If there was a blow-up [at practice], I sure didn’t see it.”
Today head coach Mike Tomlin stepped up to the mic to address the issue in typical Mike Tomlin fashion. He provided a few soundbites while stating that he’d deal with it man-to-man.
“You can call it what you want.” replied coach Tomlin when asked if Brown quit on his team.
In the press conference, according to CBSSports.com, Tomlin outlined what transpired during that final week:
“Last Wednesday, Brown expressed soreness in his knee and Tomlin, as he often does with veteran players, gave him the day off. On Thursday, Brown said he still felt discomfort, and reiterated as much on Friday, which prompted the Steelers to send Brown for an MRI. That’s why, according to Tomlin, Brown was listed as questionable ahead of the Week 17 game against the Bengals.
Tomlin said he couldn’t get in touch with Brown on Friday evening or Saturday when Brown was a no-show for the walkthrough practice. At that point, “it became something altogether different,” the coach said, referring to the decision to not play Brown against the Bengals. On Sunday morning, Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called Tomlin to say Brown felt better and was ready to play.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Tomlin said he told Rosenhaus, and that while Brown wasn’t going to suit up he did want to meet with the receiver prior to the game. That was the last time the coach had spoken to the player.”
As is par for the course with Tomlin, he chose to keep things close to the chest and deal with them in-house. As a result, he wasn’t providing any fodder social media.
“More than anything, there was a lack of communication and I was an active participant in that because I was preparing for the game,” Tomlin said. “We take his lack of communication, lack of presence — especially on Saturday — as something significant and it will be handled.”
Tomlin made it clear as to how he would be handling the situation.
“I’m gonna address him [Brown] and the circumstances but to be quite honest with you, we’re going to information gather and deal with it like we do in all circumstances … we’re gonna deal with it appropriately and in-house.”
While Tomlin provided just enough detail for the keyboards to start working, Brown was taking to social media.
Happy New Year. Be great.
Even more interesting was the fact that Brown appeared on former teammate James Harrison’s IG feed, with Harrison saying an exclusive with Brown was coming.
Antonio Brown listening to Mike Tomlin’s press conference with James Harrison. AB says to stay tuned for a “big interview” coming. #Steelers https://t.co/nn0XtwfJxk
While we await this “exclusive” interview, AB’s status with the team remains uncertain. Will they trade him? Is he too much of a diva? Are his talents worth the rumored headaches?
Unfortunately for Mike Tomlin, the Steelers and all of their fans, the end of the season has become even more agonizing and disappointing.