Antonio Brown’s potential exit from the Steelers, which more and more is looking like an inevitability, can be directly traced to his eroding relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

At least that’s the feeling from an in-depth ESPN story that delves into their complicated relationship and explains why the seven-time Pro Bowler wants out of Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger hasn’t been afraid to criticize the temperamental Brown, and it may have contributed to the wide receiver finally wanting out.

“This has been brewing for years,” a former teammate said “It’s just now coming to the surface.

“And it’s probably over.”

Brown and Roethlisberger got into a heated exchange prior to the Week 17 regular season finale against the Bengals. One player said with the Steelers, locker-room problems get aired out publicly far too often. Roethlisberger went after Brown during a radio interview for not running a flatter route in Week 12. While Brown didn’t respond critically, ESPN reported he was bothered by those comments. In 2017, Roethlisberger also was critical of Brown’s route-running and beating up a Gatorade cooler.

“They’ve got a love-hate relationship — they’d love each other and hate each other at times, like all relationships,” said Markus Wheaton, who played for the Steelers from 2013 to 2016. “It’s usually a misunderstanding — something Ben did set A.B. off, or A.B. did that set Ben off. But they would get through it, and then it’s hugs and touchdowns.”

“We just know they are heated at each other — it’s not Coach [Mike] Tomlin, but two grown men … butting heads,” teammate Bud Dupree said.

Other depict a different side to the relationship, saying Roethlisberger is a good teammate who will handle problems behind the scenes and has gone out of his way to create a bond with Brown. Next to Brown’s locker, there is a photo of the two with a message from Roethlisberger written on it: “A.B., we are unstoppable.”

“Ben and A.B. talk more than a lot of people on the team. … I’ve never seen the dynamic between these two [that’s demonstrative],” one current starter said. “If anything, Ben is really easy on him and always blames himself when a mistake happens between the two.”

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