Ben Roethlisberger says his relationship with Antonio Brown is great, and he's downplaying any on-field incident that might have led to the wide receiver not playing in Sunday's season finale.
During his weekly radio interview Tuesday on Pittsburgh's KDKA-FM, Roethlisberger confirmed some Steelers players were frustrated to learn right before the game on Sunday that coach Mike Tomlin wasn't playing Brown. He also said he didn't see any incident involving Brown in practice earlier in the week.
"That's the kind of baffling thing to me. People are making a big deal about a walkthrough on Wednesday, that there was a blow up or a fight between he and I," Roethlisberger said. "I don't know anything about that. If there was a blow up or something, I sure as heck didn't see it. A big deal was made about that. I'm not sure where that comes from."
Roethlisberger said he talked to Brown on Thursday morning and said "everything was great and fine" between them. However, he said Brown has failed to return his calls and text messages since then.
"I've reached out to him numerous times," Roethlisberger said. "I've called him and texted him. And I know other guys on the team have, too, and haven't heard back from him. But he and I talked Thursday morning and there were no issues."
The quarterback added he didn't know why Brown was avoiding his teammates.
NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala reported Monday that Brown was not present during Monday's team meeting, and there was frustration in the locker room over Tomlin not addressing the situation. Brown was absent from the team's walkthrough Saturday, and a member of the organization told Kinkhabwala that Brown left Heinz Field at halftime of the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers listed Brown with a knee injury on Thursday's injury report after initially labeling him with a non-injury designation Wednesday. He didn't practice all week and, on Friday, Tomlin told reporters he was undergoing tests on his knee.
Multiple sources told Kinkhabwala, however, that Roethlisberger and Brown had "a little bit of a disagreement" during last Wednesday's walkthrough. During the incident, Brown yelled "I'm done" while walking off the field, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. While Brown also wondered aloud whether the Steelers should trade him, a source told Rapoport that Brown was simply frustrated and was not making a trade demand.
The drama intensified with Brown being designated as questionable on Friday's injury report before being ruled out for Sunday. Rapoport reported the NFL is expected to look into the injury designation to see if proper protocol was followed.
"I'm blessed to play with him," Roethlisberger said Tuesday. "I consider him one of my closer friends ... I know guys are frustrated, some of the guys I talked to, that they tried to reach out to him and didn't hear back."
Big Ben also expressed hope that any issues involving Brown wouldn't jeopardize his standing with the team.
"I'm obviously not the coach or the owner, so I'm not sure what's going to happen," Roethlisberger said. "But like I said I love Antonio and I just wish him nothing but the best. I hope he's back here with me because he makes me better."
Tomlin is expected to address the situation during a news conference scheduled for noon ET Wednesday.
Brown, whose 15 receiving touchdowns led the league in 2018, recorded 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.