Since the final week of the 2018-19 regular season, there have been problems between receiver Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since than, Brown has asked to be traded and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays a role in the star receiver wanting out.
During a week 17 Wednesday practice, Brown and Roethlisberger reportedly got into a heated dispute. It caused Brown to throw a football at Roethlisberger and walk off the field. Brown failed to show up to practice the rest of the week and was inactive for the game. The Steelers ended up winning 16-13 against the Cincinnati Bengals, but Brown did not stick around as he left at halftime.
The problem is bigger than Brown missing a few practices or leaving the team, but more so about Brown being fed up with Roethlisberger attitude and tendency to call out teammates and coaches through the media.
On Twitter, Brown answered a fan question regarding the issue between him and Roethlisberger. Brown answered the two do not have a conflict between him and Roethlisberger, but “just a matter of respect” and the quarterback has an owners mentality.
After a 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, Roethlisberger called out rookie receiver James Washington after he dove for a pass rather than run under it. Roethlisberger also unfairly called out Brown after an interception the Steelers quarterback felt Brown didn’t run flat enough on his route.
“This was a … play where I’m reading the safety to the weakside where AB is, and if the safety comes down and takes away the run, I pull the ball back and throw the ball to Antonio, who is supposed to be running a real flat, down-the-line kind of route … [The cornerback] did undercut AB … that’s where I talked to AB, like ‘AB you have to come flat. You can’t drift in the end zone or those undercuts happen.’”
If Brown ran his route flat like Roethlisberger wanted, Brown would have ran into the Broncos defensive line, possibly still resulting in an interception due to the lackadaisical throw.
To make matters worse, Roethlisberger criticized the Steelers play calling after saying they should have went to Juju Smith-Schuster on four consecutive plays, which could be taken as a shot towards Brown as well.
Roethlisberger “leadership” style is not what you want at the quarterback position. It differs from his peers at the quarterback position such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers who do not call out their teammates in the media like Roethlisberger has over the years.
Over his nine-year career with the Steelers, Brown has caught 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns. Brown has made the All-Pro team four times and is also a seven-time Pro Bowler. He is coming off a career-high and league leading 15 receiving touchdown season and his sixth straight season with at least 100 catches.
Brown will be 31 by the first game of next season and still has three years left on his current contract. Steelers owner Art Rooney II and Brown met earlier this week both agreed it was “time to move on.”
Without Brown, Roethlisberger, 36, could possibly retire before expected. He has flirted with retirement at the end of the 2016-17 season, which the Steelers drafted quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third-round of the 2018 NFL Draft as a result. Roethlisberger went back on his retirement comments after the pick and said he’s “prepared to play another three-to-five years” because of course he did.