Last week, Antonio Brown was held out of practices due to knee soreness and it was the reason why the star receiver did not play in a pivotal game for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It turns out “knee soreness” might have covered up the actual reason for Brown missing Sunday’s 16-13 win.
A day after the Steelers failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Brown sat out practice due to an unspecified heated argument with a teammate.
On Monday, the NFL Network also reported Brown’s absence was not addressed by head coach Mike Tomlin during the meeting with the team on Monday.
According to the Post-Gazette, the reason to sit Brown had nothing to do with any knee injury.
The newspaper reported the disagreement occurred during a routine walk-through practice. That practice occurred Wednesday and before the regular afternoon practice. During the morning walk-through, Brown reportedly became angered and threw a football in frustration at one of his teammates and the NFL Network said he had “a little bit of a disagreement” with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Reports did not say if it was Roethlisberger whom Brown threw the football at.
The Post-Gazette also said it was Brown’s decision not to practice the rest of the week with teammates and he skipped the usual Saturday walk-through and meeting at the team hotel on Saturday night.
According to the Post-Gazette, Brown expected to play but was not on the field for the opening kickoff and exited Heinz Field at halftime.
Leading up to Sunday’s game, Brown was listed as questionable. The reason after Wednesday was “coaches decision” and by Thursday, the reason for his absence was “coaches decision/knee.”
On Friday, Tomlin said Brown was getting the knee tested because he “didn’t feel comfortable enough.” According to the Post-Gazette, Brown never got the knee tested and he did not attempt to test the knee before the game in warmups.
Even before this week, there appeared to be issues with Brown and practicing. According to the Post-Gazette report as the Steelers prepared to face New Orleans, Brown skipped a mandatory morning meeting despite being at the team’s practice facility.
Brown finished with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards. He also led the NFL with 15 touchdown receptions, which also set a team record and passed 10,000 career receiving yards in the season opener.
The Steelers finished 9-6-1 while enduring the distraction of running back Le’Veon Bell‘s decision not to sign the franchise tag and sit out the entire season. They joined the 1993 Miami Dolphins and 1995 Oakland Raiders as the third team to start 7-2-1 through the first 10 games and fail to reach the playoffs under the current playoff format since the 1990 season.
“It just sucks,” Steelers guard David DeCastro said. “How hard we work, how much effort we put in. To go from 7-2-1 to where we are now is heartbreaking.”
“Honestly, some disappointment in the season,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m trying not to reflect right now but it’s hard not to.”
WR Antonio Brown was listed as being out for Sunday’s game with a knee injury but according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was because of a dispute with a teammate in practice on Wednesday. Brown finished with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and led the league with 15 touchdown receptions.
QB Ben Roethlisberger turns 37 in March and said he intends to return for his 16th season. He also said he does not believe Pittsburgh’s window is closing because of their talent on offense.
RB James Conner returned from missing three games with an ankle injury and gained 64 yards on 14 carries.
S Sean Davis sat out Sunday with a quadriceps injury.
LB Vince Williams missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury.