Steelers WR Antonio Brown faces unknown discipline for missing team meeting
Antonio Brown will be disciplined for missing a team meeting, but two Pittsburgh Steelers captains don’t think that punishment will include missing the game Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Captains Cameron Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey said whatever penalty is meted out by coach Mike Tomlin should not involve benching Brown, whose absence Monday coincided with his controversial “trade me” tweet.
Brown was back at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Wednesday and practiced with his teammates.
“I don’t make those decisions, but, shoot, I’m going to be a little surprised if he’s not there,” Heyward said. “He’s working right now. If a guy is practicing, he’s got to play.”
Asked if he expects Brown to play against 2-0 Tampa Bay, Pouncey laughed and said, “100 percent, 100 percent.”
Tomlin revealed Tuesday at his weekly news conference that Brown was absent from scheduled film review and positional meetings Monday. Brown’s agent said it was a “personal matter,” but Tomlin seemed in the dark about Brown’s absence.
Tomlin issued a brief statement after practice Wednesday.
“He and I met yesterday for an extended period of time. I’ll leave the nature of that conversation between us,” Tomlin said. “There was discipline involved for his missed meeting, for Monday. Some of the other things we talked about extensively. He’ll speak for himself on some of those things. Really, our focus is on preparing to win this game on Monday night.”
Team officials said Brown will talk to reporters Thursday afternoon. It will be his first comments since prior to the Steelers’ 42-37 loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Another sign pointing to Brown playing Monday was his practice participation Wednesday. Last year, when Tomlin benched wide receiver Martavis Bryant for one game, Bryant worked with the scout team in practice, wearing a green pinny to imitate plays from an opposing receiver.
Brown worked with the first team, teammates said, and he wore his typical white practice uniform.
Heyward wouldn’t reveal if any of the team’s captains and leaders, himself included, spoke privately with Brown about his absence or recent Twitter usage.
“That is between AB and whoever was there,” Heyward said. “It doesn’t concern anybody else because it’s between me and AB.”
Added Pouncey: “People don’t know the things he has going on in his life. He’s totally fine. He talked to the people he needed to talk to and confirmed why he wasn’t here, and we move on as a team and that’s totally fine.”
In the loss to Kansas City, Brown had nine catches for 67 yards but was overshadowed in the passing game by JuJu Smith-Schuster (13 catches, 121 yards) and tight end Jesse James (138 yards).
Brown confronted offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on the sideline in the second half, and he walked off the field alone while teammates celebrated quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s 3-yard touchdown run with 1:59 remaining.
Brown also dressed quickly and left the locker room without talking to reporters. Teammates chalked it up to frustration and nothing more.
“Tom Brady does it, and I’ve seen him do it 100 times before and no one says anything,” Pouncey said. “He’s the ultimate competitor. Tom Brady does it. Peyton Manning used to do it all the time. The guy wants to win a football game. He wants to go out there and make plays. I love AB to death, and I would never say anything bad about him.
“He’s a great player. He’s the ultimate competitor. He cares about this team, and he cares about winning. That’s what you want on a football team.”
What the Steelers also want are wins, which also have been missing through two weeks. After starting each of the past two seasons with a 2-0 record, the Steelers are off to their worst start since going 0-4 in 2013.
“I’m not jumping off the ship yet,” Heyward said. “And I won’t.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.