It took six months for Ben Roethlisberger to admit he went too far in criticizing Antonio Brown.
It took only a few hours for Brown to respond. And apparently he wasn’t in a forgiving mood.
Roethlisberger conducted an interview with KDKA-TV that aired Monday night. After excerpts were released on social media in which the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said he “genuinely” regretted statements he made against Brown, the All-Pro wide receiver lobbed back a brief salvo.
“Two face,” Brown wrote on his Twitter account, an obvious shot at his former teammate.
In the interview, Roethlisberger admitted he “probably” went too far when he used his 93.7-FM radio segment in November to cast blame on Brown for running an imprecise route on a pass that was intercepted in the end zone and sealed a loss to the Denver Broncos. Roethlisberger subsequently told reporters that Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, was among a “bunch of number one” receivers on the team.
“I took some heat, and deservedly so, for some of the comments on that show and especially towards him,” Roethlisberger told KDKA’s Bob Pompeani. “I genuinely feel bad about that, and I’m sorry. Did I got too far after that Denver game? Probably.”
Going into a spiral: The loss to Denver sent the Steelers into a spiral: They went 2-4 down the stretch and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years. Brown also went out of control, skipping practice in the final week and leaving Heinz Field early when he learned he would not be suiting up for the must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brown continued his criticism of Roethlisberger in the offseason, saying the quarterback had an “owner mentality.”
Roethlisberger’s interview Monday represented his first public comments since the Steelers missed the playoffs with a 9-6-1 record.
“I regretted it,” Roethlisberger said about his criticism of Brown. “That’s the thing about media and social media: As soon as you say, ‘sorry,’ it only goes so far. You can’t take it back. And I wish I could because if that’s what ruined our friendship and relationship, I’m truly, genuinely sorry about that.”
Ending nine-year relationship: When the Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders in March, it ended a nine-year relationship in which he and Roethlisberger formed one of the top passer-receiver tandems in the NFL. Roethlisberger and Brown hooked up on 74 touchdown passes, the most in franchise history and sixth-most in NFL history. Their 797 completions were second-most in NFL history.
“AB made me who I am,” Roethlisberger said. “He was the greatest wide receiver I think I ever played with. The things he did in the league and we did together are among the best of all time. … There were some great things, and then all of it sudden it kind of disappeared, and I’m not really sure where it went. We always worked through it, we always came out the other end smiling, hugged it out.”
Not this time. Roethlisberger said he has tried to call Brown and has sent him messages but has not gotten a response.
“I really am looking forward to reconnecting with him, talking,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s a good friend of mine. I still call him a good friend. I hope we can reconnect, and I hope our friendship can continue to grow.”
After posting the cryptic “Two face” tweet, Brown followed with another in which he asked to be left alone.
Leadership skills questioned: Roethlisberger also was asked about having his leadership skills questioned by Brown as well as other former teammates and members of the national media.
“They were hurtful,” he said. “It was hurtful to myself, it was hurtful to my family. I always want to get better. I always strive to be the best I can be, and last year we weren’t good enough. … I didn’t do a good enough job of being a leader because we didn’t make the playoffs.”