Picture it. It's January 9th, 2016 and two AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are in Ohio to battle it out during the AFC Wild Card playoff game. The Bengals are looking to win their first playoff game in decades, while the Steelers haven't won anything since 2010. The stakes couldn't be any higher and with only 22 seconds left, the Bengals are leading by a score of 16-15. The Steelers have the ball and they are marching down the field. All they need to is kick a field goal before time expires and they'll win the game.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger snaps the ball and his Pro Bowl wide receiver, Antonio Brown, runs a normal route that typically results in an easy first down. Big Ben targets Brown and throws him the ball but it's too high and AB misses it. As he lands back on his feet, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict lowers his shoulder and runs full speed into Brown's head like the wide receiver was a matador and Burfict was an angry bull. For minutes, that seemed like hours, Brown laid there motionless, unsure of what had just happened.

Ever since that hit, Brown has been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons. In a fascinating thread from Twitter user @vountee, they go in-depth on all of the incidents Brown has been a part of during his career. As it turns out, his behavioral issues began in early 2017, following his big head injury. While most players act out on a consistent basis, with Brown, you can pinpoint the exact moment that he began to have problems. Below is a detailed list of things he has done, all the way up to his huge helmet grievance with the Oakland Raiders. 

As you can see, there are a plethora of problems here that would make anyone do a double-take. Perhaps the biggest highlights on this list are when he threw furniture off the balcony of his condo, got into an unnecessary beef with JuJu Smith-Schuster, and threatened to end his career over not being able to wear his favorite helmet. Since his days in Oakland, many other massive scandals have come to light. For instance, a video went viral of Brown farting in front of a doctor's face. The clip is incredibly bizarre and depicts a man who lacks serious judgment about how to act in public. 

Just when Brown was getting acclimated to the New England Patriots, he was accused of sexual assault by his former trainer, Britney Taylor. Taylor claims Brown sexually assaulted her twice and raped her on a third occasion. These events allegedly occurred in 2017 and 2018, which is consistent with the timeline of Brown acting out following his traumatic hit to the head. A week after these accusations came to light, Brown was accused of sexual assault by a second woman, who says he had sex in front of her while she was doing a painting he commissioned from her. After her allegations made it to the internet, Brown allegedly began to threaten her which ultimately led to an investigation from the NFL

Since then, Brown has been released from the Patriots and now, he is without a team. The wide receiver has to wait for the NFL to clear his name before being reinstated and teams are apprehensive about giving him a shot. Not to mention, the aforementioned antics don't even include his exploits on social media which have been erratic, to say the least. Once a week, Brown seems to go on a rant that either takes aim at fellow players or hints at his retirement from the sport. At almost every turn, Brown has sabotaged his career and has made himself out to be a polarizing figure that fans have become not just fed up with but repulsed by.

Considering this piece started with a look back at the Vontaze Burfict hit, it should be pretty obvious what the rest of this article is about to suggest. While on the surface it may seem as though Brown is a naturally unhinged person, that would be a far cry from the facts. As @vountee pointed out, his issues only began after the hit. Before that, he was a perfect, upstanding citizen. But how could this happen and why so suddenly? Well, it appears there could be a good reason for all of this.

When it comes to the human body, there are some parts that are able to heal themselves. For instance, broken bones eventually repair over time while torn muscles can be fixed with the proper surgery. The head, however, is a much different animal. When someone gets a concussion, they can experience memory loss, sensitivity to light, nausea, and even massive headaches. For athletes who have suffered multiple concussions, these symptoms never go away. In some cases, players are even diagnosed with a disease called CTE, which is untreatable and can only be diagnosed after death.

According to Boston University's CTE Center, the symptoms of CTE are quite jarring and can completely shift the way a person acts on a daily basis.

Per Boston University:

"The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and, eventually, progressive dementia. These symptoms often begin years or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement."

Numerous athletes have been diagnosed with the disease over the years and it's not just football players who are at risk. Hockey players have been especially susceptible to the disease, including fighters such as Bob Probert, Derek Boogard, and Wade Belak. While it's impossible to say if Brown has CTE and quite frankly, it would be irresponsible to do so, there is a case to be made that Brown's recent behavior could be an indicator that he is showing some early signs. Not to mention, in an interview with Dan Patrick after the Burfict hit, Brown admitted to suffering from slight memory loss which is a sign of heavy brain trauma.

Brown's recent actions have demonstrated a lack of judgment and wherewithal for one's surroundings which is yet another symptom of the disease. While one hit can't give you CTE, multiple hits will eventually make it harder for your brain to function normally. Wide receivers tend to take a ton of hits and it would be fair to say that AB has received his fair share of punishment over the years. At this point, the evidence suggesting the Burfict hit is the reason for his problems is too overwhelming to ignore.

Mark Brown/Getty Images

Unfortunately, many NFL fans believe Brown is suffering from the disease as well but instead of taking it seriously, it has turned into a meme. Just look at any tweet about AB or from AB and you will see a bunch of people mocking him for exhibiting the signs of CTE. The big issue here is that this disease can kill you and hurt the loved ones around you. If Brown does, in fact, suffer from underlying brain issues and doesn't get them checked out, he could be seriously hurt by all of this and no one wants to see that happen. Even if you think Brown's antics are funny, they are indicative of a deeper issue that needs to be investigated a little further. The NFL is notorious for lacking on the concussion issue and with Brown, we are seeing the manifestation of this before our very eyes.

Whether or not Brown ever gets back into the NFL remains to be seen. His stats show that he is on his way to a Hall of Fame career and prior to this season, he was one of if not the best wide receiver in the entire league. Despite all of this, Brown's health is what matters most and if a sabbatical from the game will help his health longterm, that's absolutely what he should do. Even if he doesn't have CTE or an underlying brain issue, it's clear that AB needs a bit of a break from the bright lights.