PITTSBURGH — Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown “went off” on a teammate and skipped multiple meetings and practices before and after the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team source confirmed to ESPN on Monday.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported Brown elected to sit out practices after the heated dispute, and the Steelers’ decision not to play him against the Bengals had nothing to do with a knee injury. The report said Brown became “disgusted” and threw a football in anger at one of his teammates during a walk-through, citing several sources.
A source told ESPN that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was involved in the incident with Brown, but this wasn’t a head-to-head clash, and more of Brown flaming up like he has in the past. The source added that it didn’t appear Brown threw a football directly at the quarterback.
Brown got upset that Roethlisberger wanted to run a hot read over again during a walk-through, so coaches sent another player to run the play, a source close to the situation told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Brown got upset, left practice and talked with Roethlisberger afterward, telling the quarterback that he felt underappreciated and had issues with people in the organization, the source told Schefter.
Brown left and wouldn’t respond to the Steelers, including team president Art Rooney II, the source said.
Brown was seen talking with teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey on Thursday in the locker room but wasn’t present the rest of the week or during Monday’s exit meetings.
The Steelers did not have official comment on the matter, but coach Mike Tomlin — who said Brown missed late-week practices with a knee injury — is expected to address the media Wednesday for his previously scheduled end-of-season news conference.
Some Steelers players thought it was odd that Brown showed up and walked onto the field pregame in a large, multicolored coat instead of Steelers gear.
“It’s a difficult situation,” one player said. “It’s hard to know what to think. This is the stuff that’s hard to deal with.”
Something was up during the week, as several players and coaches were blunt when asked about Brown.
“I’m not going to answer any questions about Antonio. Next,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said.
Tomlin told reporters Friday that Brown was experiencing knee discomfort coming out of the Week 16 game against the New Orleans Saints and would undergo tests.
Brown finished the season with 104 catches for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has an NFL-record six consecutive 100-catch seasons.
Brown and team MVP JuJu Smith-Schuster became the first duo in the modern NFL era to record matching 100-catch, 1,200-yard seasons.
But Brown’s Week 17 absence punctuates a bizarre year for the All-Pro. Brown has threatened a reporter over a story he didn’t like, became incensed on the sidelines during a Week 2 loss, responded on social media to a critique from a former Steelers employee with the line “Trade me let’s find out” and faced lawsuits over allegations he threw furniture over the 14th-floor balcony of a South Florida apartment balcony.