Why did Antonio Brown leave the Steelers? Pittsburgh exit marked start of problems for former Buccaneers star

Antonio Brown may have played in his last NFL game on Sunday afternoon.

The 33-year-old wide receiver sent shockwaves throughout the soccer universe as he removed his jersey, tossed his gloves and jersey into the stands, and ran to the locker room as the Buccaneers offensive unit drove down the field against the Jets. Brown never returned to the game, and Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians told reporters after the game that Brown was “no longer a Buc.”

Brown’s abrupt exit in Week 17 was just the latest incident in what has become a long timeline of problems. Since leaving the Steelers after the 2018 season, Brown has found himself at the center of controversy and rebounded across multiple teams.

That begs the question: Why did Brown part ways with Pittsburgh in the first place?

Why did Antonio Brown leave the Steelers?

One of Brown’s former teammates told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the problems between Brown and the Steelers had been “brewing beer for years.” Brown was regularly late for team meetings and occasionally clashed with other players, most notably quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin apparently passed up much of Brown’s behavior because he was one of the most productive offensive players in the league. He was named a Pro Bowler seven times as a member of the Steelers and climbed to second on the franchise’s all-time receiving yards list.

The organization finally reached its boiling point before the end of the 2018 season. Brown had allegedly got into a heated disagreement with a teammate and missed several meetings and practices before the Steelers’ Week 17 game against the Bengals. He was not active for that contest.

Even though Brown was coming off a season in which he totaled 104 receptions, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns, Pittsburgh ultimately decided he no longer wanted to deal with the constant drama that surrounded him. The Steelers sent Brown to the Raiders for a third and fifth round pick. Brown signed a three-year, $ 50 million deal with the Raiders.

Antonio Brown’s brief races with Raiders, Patriots

Like the Steelers, the Raiders grew weary of Brown’s unpredictable nature. He had foot problems as a result of a mishap with the cryotherapy machine and a lot of helmet related drama. He also missed team workouts, shared a video of a private conversation with coach Jon Gruden, and lashed out at general manager Mike Mayock. The Raiders released Brown in September 2019 after he posted a release request on Instagram.

The Patriots acquired Brown to a one-year contract prior to the start of the 2019 season, but he only played one game for New England before being released amid sexual assault allegations. Brown’s former trainer filed a lawsuit in September 2019 alleging that Brown sexually assaulted her multiple times in 2017 and 2018. Brown denied “each and every allegation in the lawsuit” and said the two had consensual sex. Brown was also charged with sexual misconduct by an artist who worked at Brown’s home in 2017. She claimed that Brown sent her threatening text messages after the indictment.

Brown did not sign until the end of that season, and the NFL granted him an eight-game suspension for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy. The punishment stemmed from misconduct allegations and multiple charges related to a physical altercation in January 2020 that involved a trucker outside his Florida home.

Tampa Bay signed Brown in October 2020, and he served his suspension before taking the field for the first time in a Bucs uniform on November 8, 2020.

Why did the Buccaneers release Antonio Brown?

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Monday that Brown refused to enter Sunday’s game against the Jets because he felt he was not healthy enough to play. He had been dealing with an ankle injury, but was cleared to play by team medical personnel. He caught three passes for 26 yards before leaving the field.

However, Rapoport noted that there had already been “seething frustration” within the organization with Brown for multiple reasons, including his three-game suspension for misrepresenting his vaccination status earlier this season.

Unfortunately for Brown, it seems he didn’t learn from his history with the Steelers, so he was doomed to repeat the cycle.