Brown went on to compliment Roethlisberger, lauding the quarterback for calling him out on the sidelines Sunday during the Steelers 26-9 victory over Ravens.
“I’m glad [Roethlisberger] did what he did. He called me out,” Brown said. “As a general of our team, he has every right to call anything out. . . . I’m just grateful we have a great leader who’s forgiving and accommodating and willing to talk to me.”
The incident happened during the second quarter of Sunday’s game, after Roethlisberger failed to spot a wide-open Brown. Angry at the situation, Brown was later seen on the sideline throwing a Gatorade cooler and yelling at offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
During his weekly appearance Tuesday on a Pittsburgh radio show, Roethlisberger called out Brown for “having a temper tantrum” and “causing a distraction that none of us really needs.” It wasn’t the first time that the quarterback has criticized his receiver, and it came shortly after Roethlisberger appeared to distance himself from his entire team after its Week 3 protest during the national anthem.
Saying, “It’s not like I intentionally didn’t throw it” to Brown on the play, Roethlisberger said that he was properly following his pre-snap “reads,” which told him to “work the other side of the field.” He added (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), “It’s unfortunate that it happened, and it’s unfortunate that he acted and reacted that way.
“I know that he’s a competitor and he wants the ball, but all of us are competitors. We all want the ball. We all want to make plays. I told him on the sideline, ‘AB, just come talk to me. Ask me what happened. Tell me that you were open.’ ”
Roethlisberger brought up longtime Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who retired after the 2015 season and had a close relationship with the quarterback, as an example of how he would have preferred to see Brown behave. “If that was Heath Miller, I would probably ask Heath on the sideline, ‘Hey Heath, were you open?’ He’d probably tell me no, because he wouldn’t want you to feel bad. That’s just who he was,” Roethlisberger said.
“And I wish that [Brown] would’ve just come to me and tell me, ‘Hey Ben, I killed them on this play,’ whatever. That goes a lot further than having a temper tantrum.”
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin was also irked by Brown’s display. Saying at his weekly news conference that he didn’t see the outburst when it happened, Tomlin told reporters (via ESPN), “I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking to Antonio about not throwing water coolers and so forth. Be a professional.”
In January, both Tomlin and Roethlisberger chastised Brown for streaming a video live to social media from the Steelers’ locker room as the pair were speaking to the team following a playoff win over the Chiefs. The locker room is “a sacred place where things are said and hugs and tears, and it’s kind of a special place. So a little disappointed with AB for that,” Roethlisberger said during his radio appearance.
Brown mentioned that incident on Friday, too, and apologized again, noting, “It’s not about me; it’s about the Steelers.”
Brown isn’t alone in earning condemnation from his quarterback, however. Another Pittsburgh wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, took a scolding from Roethlisberger in the offseason, when the latter said that Bryant would have to “win back everybody’s trust” following a 2016 season-long suspension for violating NFL substance-abuse policies. “We should have a man-to-man,” Bryant subsequently said of the quarterback. “Because some of the things he put out there about me, I kind of didn’t agree with how he did it.”
When NFL teams staged mass protests during the anthem following critical comments by President Trump two weeks ago, the Steelers were among three teams that declined to take the field until after “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed. “I wish we approached it differently,” Roethlisberger said later in an online post, adding, “I personally don’t believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest.”
On Tuesday, Roethlisberger explained why he continues to call out players and speak up when he believes it necessary. Regarding the incident involving Brown, in particular, Roethlisberger expressed concern that some of the Steelers’ younger players might see Brown’s show of anger and think “it’s okay to act that way.” He also made sure to praise the abilities of Brown, a five-time Pro Bowler who has twice led the NFL in receptions, saying, “AB is the best receiver in the world, maybe one of the best to ever play the game.”
Brown is “superhuman on the football field,” Roethlisberger said, but he noted that when the receiver loses his cool, “it almost brings him back to being a mere mortal, if you will. It gets in his head and it just messes with all of us a little bit.”
Roethlisberger added, “I’m not trying to call AB out, but I just think that this is causing a distraction that none of us really needs.”