Antonio Brown's conflict with the Steelers may have started with team MVP snub

Saying that it’s been a weird week for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown would be an understatement. He didn’t play in the Steelers’ season finale on Sunday due to what was initially reported to be a knee issue. But it came out on Monday that Brown had been benched by coach Mike Tomlin due to skipped practices during the week.

We don’t know why Brown skipped those practices. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown clashed with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a Wednesday walkthrough. But Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported that the naming of the Steelers’ team MVP earlier that day may have set him off.

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Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger together
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Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger together
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers hands the ball off to Antonio Brown #84 against the Seattle Seahawks during the game on September 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Seahawks 24-0. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 30: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles as he looks to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 during a game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on December 30, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Browns 24-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 17 : Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a touchdown with Ben Roethlisberger #7 during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions on November 17, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Antonio Brown #84 and Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate their third quarter touchdown play against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field on December 8, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks to wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 on the sideline during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 15, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Bengals 30-20. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 7: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is congratulated by Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after scoring during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 7, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati 42-21. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 2: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks to wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 during a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on November 2, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Ravens 43-23. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 03: Ben Roethlisberger #7 speaks with Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 3, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 26: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with Antonio Brown #84 after a touchdown during the first half of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 26, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with teammate wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 after a fourth quarter touchdown against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 12, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 24: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers react after the pair connected for a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 24: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26), Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) celebrate a victory after the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts on November 24, 2016, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) discusses the play with Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (84) during the NFL Football game between the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 4, 2016, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01: Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (84), both inactive for the game, on the field prior to the National Football League game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers on January 1, 2017, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a touchdown with Antonio Brown #84 in the first half during the Wild Card Playoff game against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with Antonio Brown #84 after a touchdown by DeAngelo Williams #34 (not pictured) during the second quarter against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 17: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up with Antonio Brown #84 before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Heinz Field on September 17, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) before a week 6 NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on October 15, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The Steelers won 19-13. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers has a discussion with teammate Antonio Brown #84 during their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.The Steeler defeated the Bengals 23-20. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands in the huddle during the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jaguars defeat Pittsburgh 45-42. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 and wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walk onto the field in the third quarter of a game against the Cleveland Browns on September 9, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The game ended in a tie 21-21. (Photo by: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with Antonio Brown #84 during warmups before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on September 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 14: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with Antonio Brown #84 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 08: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with Ben Roethlisberger #7 during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on November 8, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 24: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is congratulated by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) after a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 24, 2018, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 09: Antonio Brown #84 and Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of their NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 9, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA -DECEMBER 16: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) talk with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 16, 2018 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers embrace before the game between between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field on November 18, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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JuJu Smith-Schuster, not Antonio Brown, named team MVP

After the Steelers’ Week 16 loss to the New Orleans Saints, JuJu Smith-Schuster was voted as team MVP for the 2018 season by his teammates. According to Breer, Brown felt his teammates had snubbed him by not voting him MVP, and he took that personally. Those feelings stayed with him during the week, which is what led to his fight with Roethlisberger and the subsequent skipped practices.

One Steelers source spoke to Breer about the incident.

“He was just frustrated,” said one source. “The MVP vote—it’s those things that set him off. He was unreal in New Orleans, we still lost, and the vote comes out and it’s JuJu. So he shows up for work, he’s not voted MVP, he’s in a bad way, and that carried over into the walkthrough.”

Looking at Brown’s performance in New Orleans alone, you can see why he was upset. He was a standout in that game, racking up 185 yards, 14 catches, and two touchdowns. But looking at the season as a whole, it’s a little more difficult to call Brown the definitive MVP. On the season he has 129 fewer receiving yards than Smith-Schuster, but eight more touchdowns. And Smith-Schuster’s friendly, outgoing attitude could have played a part.

Regardless of why Smith-Schuster was voted team MVP, Brown was reportedly “bitter” about it. And that apparently led to the walkthrough fight, the skipped practices, and the eventual Week 17 benching.

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JuJu Smith-Schuster with the Pittsburgh Steelers
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JuJu Smith-Schuster with the Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, left, makes a catch in drills during NFL football minicamp, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this photo from July 28, 2017, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Justin Hunter (11) walks beside quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during practice at NFL football training camp in Latrobe, Pa. The Steelers won't lack for options at wide receiver heading into 2017. From rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster to mercurial Martavis Bryant to erratic Sammie Coats to veteran Justin Hunter, the picture behind Antonio Brown is crowded and cloudy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster warms up before an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) celebrates with Antonio Brown (84) after scoring during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) crosses the goal line for a touchdown after taking a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) watches during the first half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates with JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) afters scoring during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) smiles on he sideline during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback George Iloka have been suspended one game each by the NFL for violating league safety rules. Smith-Schuster was flagged for unnecessary roughness and taunting after a blindside hit on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh's 23-20 victory Monday night, Dec. 5. Iloka was penalized for unnecessary roughness for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) runs on a 69-yard pass play during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) celebrates with JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) sits after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) visits with fans on the sidelines during warmups before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) returns a kickoff 96-yards for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
This is a 2018 photo of JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL football team. This image reflects the Pittsburgh Steelers active roster as of Thursday, June 7, 2018 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is greeted by young fans as he takes to the practice field during NFL football training camp in Latrobe, Pa., Thursday, July 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster catches a pass for a first down during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) tries to fend off Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Adams (29) during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) can't make the catch against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) celebrates with fans after scoring a touchdown on a pass reception in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
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What else has Antonio Brown been up to?

Brown’s been up to plenty! While Tomlin was on the mic doing his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday — answering quite a lot of questions about the Brown situation — he tweeted this.

Brown then called his former teammate Ryan Clark “Uncle Tom” in the comments of an Instagram post. The post featured video of Clark being critical of Brown’s recent behavior on SportsCenter.

That all happened on Wednesday, and Brown still wasn’t done. By the end of the night, he had pulled off a giant hippo mask on national TV (after performing Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative”), revealing himself to be the first eliminated contestant on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.” No, really. That actually happened.

Is there a way Brown can top his head popping out of a massive hippo mask? It’s a long offseason, so he’ll have plenty of time to try.

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