Brown controversy intensifies throughout offseason

Since wide receiver Hines Ward retired after the 2011 season, Antonio Brown has been the number one receiver for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense. Brown has arguably been the league’s top receiver since 2012; however, tensions have came about that could cause Brown to leave the Steelers and pass the torch of being the Steelers number one receiver to Juju Smith-Schuster.

Tensions came and went all throughout the 2018 season, with Roethlisberger and Brown getting into little spats about the number of targets Brown was receiving. Roethlisberger made numerous remarks to Brown in practices and film sessions, making it very obvious that the offense did not rely on Antonio Brown.

However, while preparing for the season finale against the Bengals, Brown accidentally ran the wrong route in practice. Roethlisberger immediately spiked the ball into the ground and yelled to a coach “Get him out of here.” This remark easily angered Brown, as he yelled “I’m done,” spiked the football near Roethlisberger’s spikes and walked off the practice field without saying another word.

Brown was also dealing with a slight knee injury during that week and did not show up to Thursday’s practice due to the injury. The team scheduled an MRI for Brown on Friday, which he decided to skip. Brown then proceeded to skip the team walkthrough on Saturday. On Sunday morning, Brown’s agent called Coach Tomlin stating that he [Brown] was ready to play in the game. Tomlin made the decision then that Brown would not be playing in the game Sunday because of his decisions to skip practice and the MRI. Brown watched his team from the sidelines Sunday afternoon, before deciding to leave at halftime.

Since this issue, Brown has not returned phone calls or text messages from any of his teammates, coaches, or even owner Art Rooney II. Brown has removed any affiliation with the Steelers from his Instagram and Twitter profiles. Brown has been active on social media, sending eyeball emojis to San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle when Kittle tagged Brown and said “Sup.” Brown has also been on Instagram livestreams with former 49ers receiver Jerry Rice. Rice has told numerous reporters that Brown has made it very clear to him that he [Brown] would love to play for the 49ers.

Rooney, when asked about the Antonio Brown situation on January 10 stated that it would be “hard to envision,” Brown on the roster next year. Coming from the owner of the team, the odds of Brown not being Roethlisberger’s number one receiver in 2019 were looking inevitable.

Former teammate and Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders stated, “Antonio Brown brought it on himself. You cannot turn your back on your brothers and the  organization who gave you an opportunity to make you who you are as a football player.”

Former offensive coordinator and Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians added “Too much diva” hinting that Brown is not the same player he was when the Steelers drafted him in 2010.

Brown’s frustration is also a result of second year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster made an immediate impact on the Steelers offense, causing defenses to lessen the coverage on Brown because Smith-Schuster can easily get open. In 2018, teams seemed to forget what Smith-Schuster did in his rookie year, often leaving him in single coverage or just one-on-one with a safety. This allowed Smith-Schuster to get open easily, and he often made defenses pay for that mistake. He finished the season with 1,426 yards on 111 receptions and seven touchdowns. While he finished below Brown in touchdowns, Smith-Schuster finished 130 yards ahead of Brown. In layman’s terms, Brown is jealous of the number of times Smith-Schuster is getting the ball thrown to him.

Recently, center Maurkice Pouncey took to Twitter commenting that the situation between Brown and the Steelers could be worked out, and that the Roethlisberger and Brown situation never happened. Owner Art Rooney has also came out and may have implied that the Steelers are working to resolve problems with Brown.

“There are a lot of factors we have to take into account for it. We’d have to sit down with Antonio and understand where he is and make sure he understands where we are. There is some work to do before we figure that out,” said Rooney on nfl.com.

Recently, Brown posted pictures of himself hugging Rice in a 49ers uniform. Just when everything starts to settle down, something new comes up and keeps the drama thriving. Brown has also been accused of being in a domestic abuse situation in Florida. The details have not been released yet. 

The offseason is in its early phases, so there is plenty of time for the Steelers to work with (or trade) Brown. As the offseason progresses, the drama of this situation will only intensify until action has been taken.