Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff WriterClose
- ESPN staff writer
- Previously a college football reporter for CBSSports.com
- University of Florida graduate
The Steelers are shopping Brown after the All-Pro receiver did not show up for the season’s final Saturday walk-through and cut off contact with the organization.
“We’re a band of brothers. We’ve been together a long time,” Pouncey said. “You can’t tell me a great phone conversation or a sit-down can’t get things right.”
Pouncey compared Brown’s relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to brothers who occasionally have a dispute but find ways to make up. Pouncey also disputed a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that Brown threw a football at somebody during the Wednesday walk-through in Week 17. “It didn’t happen,” he said.
Brown became upset and left the walk-through after Roethlisberger wanted to run a hot read again and the team put somebody else in the lineup, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who also reported that Roethlisberger and Brown talked afterward and that Brown felt underappreciated by some in the organization.
Pouncey believes that time can heal issues and every star player he’s been around has had an edge to him, an “it” factor.
“The simple fact it’s two Hall of Fame players, there’s a reason it’s being brought up so much,” said Pouncey about Brown and Roethlisberger. “Rightfully so. I agree everyone has opinions and everybody can talk about things.
“But I honestly think, and I’ve been playing football a long time, things will get worked out. They are the best duo in Steeler history. If you don’t want to talk to two Hall of Famers who have played with each other and did so much together, I just don’t understand what ‘team’ is anymore.”
Smith-Schuster, who replaced Brown in the Pro Bowl due to injury, said he’s reached out to Brown and hasn’t heard back but stressed that players are vacationing this time of year and contact is minimal. He “no doubt” expects to chat with Brown soon, he said.
Smith-Schuster won the Steelers’ MVP award, as voted on by teammates, after recording a team-high 111 catches and 1,426 yards.
“He helps out the team a lot — not only myself, he makes the team better,” said Smith-Schuster about why he doesn’t want Brown traded. “Obviously I don’t control the situation, but if I could, I wouldn’t like for that to happen.”
Asked about the source of Brown’s frustration, Smith-Schuster said he’s focused on himself.
Brown has an NFL-record six straight 100-catch seasons and led the league with 15 touchdowns in 2018. During the season, several coaches and players stressed that Brown’s ability to draw double-teams from defenses helps unlock the offense for other playmakers.
But tension seemed to be building throughout the season. Brown had a flare-up on the sideline in a loss to Kansas City in Week 2, and the next day, he tweeted “trade me let’s find out” to a former Steelers employee who floated the notion that Brown should thank Roethlisberger for his production. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged after the season that there might come a point when Brown’s antics outweigh his positives.
Pouncey said issues inside NFL locker rooms boil over when a team loses. The Steelers finished 9-6-1, losing four of their last six games to fall out of the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“We’ve got a lot of great players on this team. We should be in the playoffs playing,” Pouncey said. “I honestly think we should be still playing right now. For reporters that have been following this team a long time, for the fans who have been following a long time, I get it that it’s disappointing, trust me. It’s disappointing to us. We all want it. Whenever things like that happen, sometimes you can overlook some of the bad things that have happened over the years. When you’re winning, everything’s great.”