Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes swirled speculation in August that Antonio Brown had the sickle-cell trait and Brown might not play in the Denver Broncos game in Denver. The sickle-cell trait can cause organ damage when people exert themselves at altitude due to an abnormality which can affect red blood cells. Brown appears to give the report little credibility, but did not come out and deny it either.
“I don’t know about all that,” Brown said after practice Friday. “I’m excited to play in that environment. Looking forward to it.”
Steelers fans remember all too well the severe consequences the sickle cell trait can have. After a game in October 2007, Steelers safety Ryan Clark had severe pain in his left side. The damage was so severe Clark had to have his spleen and gallbladder removed. The surgeries derailed and ended Clark’s 2007 season. Pittsburgh played four more games in Denver during Clark’s career, all without him. Doctors cleared him to play, but head coach Mike Tomlin did not allow him to play due to safety concerns.
Brown played in two games in the mile high city in 2012 with no known adverse effects. No other Steelers players are known to have the trait and Tomlin remained tight-lipped about the rumor and was unwilling to discuss it.
“I’m not getting into that,” he said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “That’s private medical information. Just know that if we do, we’ll do what’s appropriate, but I’m not disclosing people’s private medical information. If they choose to address it with you guys publicly, then obviously I’ll talk about it, but I’m not getting into that.”
The six-time Pro Bowler appears to be all systems go for today’s 4:25 p.m. ET tilt. In three career games against the Broncos, Brown has 21 receptions for 333 yards receiving and a touchdown. Since Tomlin does not seem to be concerned with the situation, neither should Pittsburgh fans. The Broncos might be mired in a 4-6 season, but they lead the all-time series 19-11-1. Pittsburgh is 3-1 in the last four games and they look to extend their winning streak to seven.