The Steelers surprising decision to bench Antonio Brown on Sunday apparently had nothing to do with a knee injury that he was supposedly suffering from and everything to do with the fact that he got into a heated dispute with Ben Roethlisberger last week.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown's absence from the game capped a week of craziness that saw the receiver skip multiple practices.
The drama in Pittsburgh apparently started during a walk-through practice on Wednesday when Brown got into a heated dispute with an unnamed teammate. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported that the unnamed teammate was Roethlisberger. Things apparently got so ugly that Brown picked up a football and chucked it at Big Ben.
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— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 31, 2018
Although the Steelers' injury report indicated that Brown was having an issue with his knee, the report also said that he missed practice due to a "coach's decision." As it turns out though, it was his own decision to miss practice. According to the Post-Gazette, Brown skipped practice for the rest of the week following the dispute with Roethlisberger and didn't even bother showing up for the team's walk-through practice on Saturday.
The craziest part of this situation is that despite all of this, Brown apparently still showed up to Heinz Field on Sunday expecting to play. When he found out he was going to be inactive, he stayed at the stadium until halftime, but then decided to leave Heinz Field, even though the Steelers were trailing 10-3 and their playoff hopes were on the line.
The Steelers eventually came back and won the game, 16-13, but they missed out on the playoffs after the Ravens beat the Browns 26-24 to claim the AFC North title. Multiple players told NFL Network that a big reason the team struggled in the first half was due to Brown's actions.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday and will presumably be asked plenty of questions about the Brown situation.
Brown has been creating a lot of drama for the Steelers over the past 12 months, but the Steelers have been putting up with it, because he's one of the best receivers in the league. Despite missing Week 17, Brown still finished the year with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and an NFL-leading 15 touchdown catches.
As for that drama, Brown has been hit with at least two lawsuits stemming from an incident last April in Florida when he allegedly threw items from a 14th-floor condo balcony. Brown also threatened a reporter on Twitter in September and called another reporter a clown in August. The Steelers receiver also got into a heated sideline argument with Steelers offensive coordinator Randy FIchtner during a 42-37 loss to the Chiefs in Week 2.