Report: Steelers WR Antonio Brown was benched, not injured, for Sunday's game

When Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was deactivated for Sunday’s game, everyone assumed it was due to a knee injury the Steelers said he was dealing with during the week.

Instead, Brown was reportedly benched for drama during the week that included missing practices and meetings.

An explosive story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette, citing several sources, said Brown chose to sit out practices after a confrontation with an unspecified teammate. NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala said Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a disagreement in Wednesday. 

Dulac and Bouchette wrote that Brown not playing in a must-win game against the Bengals “had nothing to do with any type of knee injury.” Brown also skipped Saturday’s walkthrough and team meeting, then showed up Sunday expecting to play according to Dulac and Bouchette. One Steelers player told the Post-Gazette the situation was “embarrassing” and “the worst I’ve seen.” 

The Steelers’ season is over after they didn’t get the help they needed to make the playoffs. But the question becomes, can the Steelers bring Brown back after this?

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Antonio Brown through his career
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Antonio Brown through his career
PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates celebrates during the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball after a catch against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on August 18, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Eagles 24-14. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 06: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates following a catch for a first down against the Baltimore Ravens during the game on November 6, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after making a catch in the second half against the New York Jets during the game on September 16, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Jets 27-10. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 10: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers makes a catch in the end zone that was over turned as a touchdown in the first half against Corey Webster #23 of the New York Giants during the game on August 10, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 20: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers plays against the Baltimore Ravens during the game on October 20, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles as he looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on August 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Panthers defeated the Steelers 10-0. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 12: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 30: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers signs autographs before the game against the New Orleans Saints on November 30, 2014 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 25: Team Carter wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 25, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 31: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown attends the 2015 NFL Honors at Phoenix Convention Center on January 31, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a 2-point conversion during the 2nd quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 27, 2015: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles at fans prior to a game against the Baltimore Ravens on December 27, 2015 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore won 20-17. (Photo by: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18: Wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles as he looks on from the sideline during a National Football League preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on August 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Steelers 17-0. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to playing the New York Jets at Heinz Field on October 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (84) catches a pass during warmups before the NFL Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 13, 2016, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers with a final score of 35-30. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 11: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball after a catch against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at New Era Field on December 11, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after scoring his second touchdown during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 01: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 12: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) takes a selfie with a fan before the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts on November 12, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (84) looks on during the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 16, 2017 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) looks on during the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 14, 2018 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 03: NFL player Antonio Brown attends the 2018 Big Game Weekend Hearing Mission With Starkey Hearing Technologies on February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for Starkey Hearing Technologies)
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Antonio Brown skipped practices all week, report said

The Post-Gazette said the entire fiasco started at a Wednesday walkthrough when Brown had a disagreement with a teammate. The Post-Gazette didn’t provide details of what happened or which of Brown’s teammates he was upset with, but said Brown “became disgusted and threw a football in anger at one of his teammates.” Kinkhabwala didn’t specify if Brown threw a football at Roethlisberger. 

Brown then sat out practice the rest of the week, and a Steelers player told the Post-Gazette that was Brown’s decision. Kinkhabwala confirmed that Brown skipped practices and meetings during the week.

Another part of the Post-Gazette’s story will draw some attention from the league office: The story said “Brown’s knee wasn’t an issue at all and was never tested.” There were reports through the week about discomfort he was having with the knee. Brown was listed as missing practice on Wednesday due to a coach’s decision, then that changed to “coach’s decision/knee” on Thursday. 

Someone wanted to leak to the media that Brown’s knee was bad, presumably to cover up what was going on. The NFL doesn’t take kindly to teams lying on the injury report.

Related: See each playoff team's odds of winning it all: 

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Super Bowl LIII championship odds for each playoff team
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Super Bowl LIII championship odds for each playoff team

Philadelphia Eagles: 25/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Indianapolis Colts: 25/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks: 25/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Houston Texans: 25/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys: 25/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Chargers: 16/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens: 14/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

Chicago Bears: 8/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

New England Patriots: 6/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Rams: 5/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs: 9/2 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

New Orleans Saints: 5/2 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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What will Steelers do with Brown?

Brown is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and a sure Hall of Famer. It’s also not the first time the Steelers have had off-field issues with him. The Post-Gazette said Brown skipped a mandatory meeting leading up to a Week 16 game against the Saints, but still played.

It’s a tough position to be in. Brown’s behavior, according to the Post-Gazette’s sources, is unacceptable. He’s also an irreplaceable player. The Steelers looked out of sorts in a 16-13 win over the Bengals, though one player told the Post-Gazette said the situation last week with Brown and how the team handled it affected his desire to play in the game. It seems fair to wonder if all of the drama was a reason the Steelers didn’t play well.

Brown will turn 31 next season. JuJu Smith-Schuster has emerged as a legitimate star after two seasons. If the Steelers were going to move on from Brown, it would be easier now than ever before.

After Monday’s report from the Post-Gazette, it’s hard to see how Brown could return in 2019.

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Frank Schwabis a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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