How it has gone wrong with Antonio Brown and the Steelers

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A tardy Antonio Brown slipped into another Pittsburgh Steelers team meeting through the backdoor.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin revealed to his team what most already knew in regard to his prolific star receiver.

“[Tomlin] essentially told the group, we’ll tolerate it now because of what he brings on the field, but the minute production stops, you don’t overlook it,” said one ex-Steeler who played with Brown for three seasons, recalling a story that multiple players confirmed.

That philosophy proved easier said than done. Brown’s production — 100-plus catches and 1,200-plus receiving yards in six consecutive seasons — hasn’t stopped, but the team reached a boiling point.7

Brown drew the ire of the organization in Week 17 when he skipped Saturday’s game preparation, prompting Tomlin to bench Brown for the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. Brown also got upset during a midweek session. During his end-of-year news conference, Tomlin said there might come a point when Brown’s antics outweigh his ability as a player.

And now, with the Steelers publicly shopping the most prolific receiver in franchise history, not even Brown’s league-high 15 receiving touchdowns can camouflage the frustration from all sides.

Tomlin once navigated a successful coach-player relationship but faces questions about what went wrong.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has broken records with Brown but hasn’t been afraid to criticize him publicly, which some believe has affected the dynamic.

“This has been brewing for years,” one ex-teammate said of Brown’s issues. “It’s just now coming to the surface.

“And it’s probably over.”

After interviews with nearly 20 former or current teammates of Brown, either on the record or on condition of anonymity, here’s an unfiltered look at Brown’s tenure as a Steeler, his layered relationship with the quarterback and head coach, and what might be next.