The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season was riding on their ability to take down the Cincinnati Bengals at home—and on at least one of two other games’ result also breaking in their favor. But the Steelers only had the ability to control the first part of the equation, and the bottom line is that wide receiver Antonio Brown did not put himself in a position to be able to help the team in that moment.
That is the position that Head Coach Mike Tomlin took yesterday during his end of season press conference. While he granted that Brown may have indeed been dealing with some sort of knee injury—even if he didn’t go for the MRI he was supposed to—the coach faulted him for not communicating information about his health in a timely manner that would have allowed a decision to be made that would allow him to play.
“When we’re talking about our darkest hour; when we’re talking about playing to win a game and needing other dominos to fall for us to be in the tournament, and the guy not communicating, that is a real element of the discussion, certainly”, he said.
Tomlin was asked as a follow-up after that if he would say that Brown quit on the team. The coach stopped short of putting that label on it, but perhaps he didn’t have to. The way he described it spoke for itself.
“You can describe it in whatever ways you want to describe it, but there was a lack of communication there that could lead to thoughts and things of that nature that can go in many directions”, he said. “The bottom line is that we were playing a significant game and he didn’t do a good enough job of communicating or being available in the hours leading up to that performance, so we needed to make decisions pertinent to getting prepared to play in that performance. I’ve been really clear about outlining what transpired, level of communication, things of that nature, so obviously there’s some things within that that you could infer, certainly”.
Basically, call it quitting on the team if you want to and I won’t argue with you about that. I’m just not going to come right out and say it.
Tomlin said that Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called him on the day of the game to inform him that his client was feeling better and wanted to make himself available for the game. The coach informed him that decisions are not made in that manner, and that playing was already off the table.
From the sounds of it, it seems as though Tomlin was the only person aware on Saturday night that Brown would definitely not be playing. Perhaps Brown really thought he could just waltz into the stadium on Sunday after going AWOL and suit up. He was proven wrong. For the moment, he doesn’t appear to have learned anything from the experience, either, which is the more unfortunate part of the entire saga.