Yesterday was our first opportunity of the offseason to hear from Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II, and you can guess what topic he was asked to discuss. In conversation with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalist Gerry Dulac, he had a lengthy talk about wide receiver Antonio Brown and his understanding of the situation as it currently stands.
One of the noteworthy pieces in Dulac’s article, however, didn’t seem necessarily come directly from Rooney, and is the first that I’m aware of that this paper in particular mentioned it. I previously wrote an article in which Colin Dunlap said that players were mad about the possibility of Head Coach Mike Tomlin allowing Brown to play despite skipping practice. The article corroborated that.
Brown was not suspended by the Steelers, but he was not allowed to play against the Bengals after refusing to the practice all week, skipping team meetings and not returning phone calls from Rooney, Tomlin and some of his teammates.
Despite that, he showed up at Heinz Field expecting to play against the Bengals — a move that both surprised and angered some of his teammates. However, he was told in a private meeting with Tomlin he would be inactive for the game.
While I’m sure it didn’t amount to a virtual “mutiny”, I think it’s pretty notable to read this. Not that it shouldn’t be obvious. It’s clear that we are where we are right now because the Steelers are trying to determine whether or not Brown, as a personality, remains capable of fitting into their team.
Many of his teammates appear to share the belief that Brown essentially quit on them, skipping virtually all team activities following an alleged incident in a Wednesday pre-practice walkthrough, which was the last team activity in which he participated.
While he spent time at the facility for the remainder of the week, he did not, reportedly, participate in any practice, attend any meetings, or go for an MRI that he was scheduled for. Brown of course is said to have complained about a knee injury as his excuse for his failure to practice during the week.
Nevertheless, he seemingly expected to be able to show up on Sunday and suit up and play, despite not only not practicing but also shutting out his teammates and coaches, going incognito over the weekend, and even having his agent call Tomlin on Sunday before the game to tell him that he wants to play.
Obviously the locker room was not informed much in advance by Tomlin that he had made the decision Brown would not be playing in the game. The head coach suggested that he essentially reached this decision by Saturday evening after he failed to get in touch with the wide receiver.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened, if anything, had Tomlin decided to allow Brown to play. Would we instead be writing about a locker room incident in which, as Dunlap’s report suggested, would include players trying to rip Brown’s shoulder pads off to prevent him from playing?