Antonio Brown skipped walkthrough, left game early

Pittsburgh Steelers players were surprised Antonio Brown didn't play in Sunday's season finale, and Brown's absence was not addressed by head coach Mike Tomlin during his meeting with the team Monday, multiple sources told NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala.

Brown was not present at the team meeting, sources told Kinkhabwala, and there was frustration in the locker room that the tumultuous week was not addressed by the head coach. Brown was absent from the team's walkthrough Saturday, and a member of the organization told Kinkhabwala that Brown left Heinz Field at halftime Sunday.

The Steelers listed Brown with a knee injury on Thursday's injury report after initially labeling him with a not-injury-related designation on Wednesday. He didn't practice all week and, on Friday, Tomlin told reporters he was undergoing tests on his knee.

However, multiple sources told Kinkhabwala that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Brown had "a little bit of a disagreement" during last Wednesday's walkthrough. The drama intensified amid Brown being designated as questionable on Friday's injury report. On Sunday, he was ruled out against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"His teammates expected him to play on Sunday," Kinkhabwala reported on "The Aftermath" on Monday. "He came to Heinz Field Sunday, he obviously did not suit up, and now this becomes a question of, what is going on with Antonio Brown? Is the level of discipline and accountability where this team needs it to be?"

Kinkhabwala further added that an executive texted her, comparing the situation to what happened between the Steelers and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who was traded to the New York Jets during the 2010 offseason after four seasons in Pittsburgh.

"Santonio Holmes was given many, many chances here in Pittsburgh until Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert finally said, we've had enough," Kinkhabwala said. "And then Santonio Holmes was let go, obviously. So now in this situation, Mike Tomlin loves to say, 'We will tolerate you until we can replace you.'"

Without Brown in the lineup Sunday, the Steelers squeaked out a hard-fought 16-13 win over the Bengals. But the Steelers certainly could've used their top receiving threat.

Brown, whose 15 receiving touchdowns led the league in 2018, recording his sixth consecutive 100-catch and 1,000-yard receiving season. He combined with JuJu Smith-Schuster to give the Steelers a prolific receiver tandem, as Smith-Schuster also topped the 100-catch and 1,000-yard receiving marks.

Nevertheless, the head-turning production from both receivers wasn't enough to save the season, as the Steelers finished with a 9-6-1 record and missed the postseason for the first time since 2013.

As for the Steelers, the team would likely prefer to not endure another contentious atmosphere in the locker room.

The Steelers already experienced an off-field headache in 2018 when running back Le'Veon Bell elected to not sign his franchise tag and sat out the entire season. So, getting to the bottom of what caused the issues last week with Brown should be a top priority during the offseason.

"This is not a situation that is sustainable at this moment," Kinkhabwala said. "I am told from all ends of this organization that something will have to be done, be it a strict talking to, be it a conversation that this can't carry on, but this is something that clearly affected the Steelers yesterday and this season at large."