NEW YORK (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers insist there's still a chance wide receiver Antonio Brown could return next season.
Brown doesn't see it that way.
According to a transcript provided by HBO, the four-time All-Pro told LeBron James on James' HBO show "The Shop" that there's "too much smoke" between Brown and the team for Brown to play for Pittsburgh in 2019. Brown's conversation with James marked his first extended public comments since requesting a trade last month.
The Steelers are shopping Brown but general manager Kevin Colbert has stressed the team won't cut him or make any personnel move that would be detrimental to the team, reiterating there's a possibility the Steelers won't move Brown if they don't receive what they consider fair value.
Brown, speaking with a group that included James, rapper Meek Mill, actor Jamie Foxx and New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis, took issue with the way the team has portrayed him after benching him for the regular season finale against Cincinnati. Brown says he told head coach Mike Tomlin he was banged up, and Tomlin then told him to go home. Tomlin said the team benched Brown because Brown declined to update them on his health in the 24 hours leading up to kickoff.
"It's a controlled environment to where they could, they could kind of determine if, if they want to let me eat or not," Brown said.
Brown said the team only labeled him a "distraction" after he started "doing his own thing."
"That's the narrative they try to create," Brown said.
Brown added he has a problem with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Brown said Roethlisberger "feels like he's the owner." Brown pointed to Roethlisberger's comments about Brown running the wrong route in the end zone in the final moments of a loss to Denver late in the regular season. Roethlisberger threw an interception on the play. Brown feels Roethlisberger should have taken more responsibility.
"I'm over here wide open!" Brown said. "You need to give me a better ball! But it's like in the league, you're going to have a guy from the team that'll be like, 'Boy, you can't say nothing.'"