The Pittsburgh Steelers' relationship with Antonio Brown publicly imploded Wednesday when it was revealed the star receiver was benched for the season finale in Week 17 - and some within the organization believe they know what sparked it.
In an extensive breakdown of the Steelers-Brown drama, Albert Breer of MMQB revealed that JuJu Smith-Schuster being voted the team's MVP for 2018 likely factored into his fellow wide receiver's anger.
"He was just frustrated," one source told Breer of Brown. "The MVP vote - it's those things that set him off. He was unreal in New Orleans (against the Saints in Week 16), 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."
The players-only MVP vote came after Brown put up 185 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches in Pittsburgh's critical 31-28 loss to the Saints. In that contest, Smith-Schuster - who broke out this season with 111 catches for 1,426 yards - fumbled in the final minute to seal the loss.
The Steelers then played without Brown in the final regular-season game, scraping past the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 but still missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013. In that game, rookie James Washington led the Steelers with 64 receiving yards, while Smith-Schuster was held to just 37 yards on five catches.