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Antonio Brown's Team MVP Snub May Have Set Off Dispute With Steelers

Some in the Steelers organization believe that JuJu Smith-Schuster being voted as the Steelers' team MVP may have caused wide receiver Antonio Brown's blowout in practice last week, reports Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer in his new Game Plan.

Smith-Schuster was voted the MVP after the team's Week 16 loss to the Saints, when Brown recorded 14 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

"He was just frustrated," one source told Breer. "The MVP vote—it’s those things that set him off. He was unreal in New Orleans, we still lost, and the vote comes out and it’s JuJu. So he shows up for work, he’s not voted MVP, he’s in a bad way, and that carried over into the walkthrough."

BREER: Did Smith-Schuster’s Team MVP Set Off Antonio Brown? And How Should the Steelers Handle Him?

Brown did not play in the Steelers' win over the Bengals on Sunday. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported his absence was due to a dispute with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last week. The quarterback downplayed the incident.

On Wednesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin denied recent reports that Brown has requested to be traded. Tomlin said Brown didn't play because of a "lack of communication" between the sides leading up to the game.

Pittsburgh (9–6–1) beat Cincinnati without Brown, but was eliminated from playoff contention when the Ravens defeated the Browns.

Brown finished the season with 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns for a league high and team record.