After benching wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the Sunday night game against the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin let it be known during his post-game press conference that he wasn’t confident that the seemingly disgruntled player would be able to help the team during the second half of the regular season. On Tuesday, however, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave a much more optimistic opinion of Bryant with the team currently in the midst of their bye week during his weekly interview on 93.7 The Fan.
“Absolutely I am,” Roethlisberger said when asked if he’s confident that Bryant can help the team during the second half of the season.
With Bryant sidelined Sunday night due to him being punished for a social media outburst following the Steelers week 7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a great game as this year’s second-round draft pick out of USC caught 7 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown, which just so happens to now be the longest scoring pass play in the history of the franchise. Because of Smith-Schuster’s great Sunday night showing, Roethlisberger was asked Wednesday if he thinks Bryant will now be even more motivated to become a better player after having to stand on the sideline and watch the rookie compile the stats that he did against the Lions.
“Potentially,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s all about how Martavis wants to take it. Does he want to say that, ‘Ok, JuJu had a great game.’ Now, I will say this, too, a lot of JuJu’s catches didn’t necessarily come at Martavis’ position. You know, like JuJu, even when Martavis is playing, JuJu works inside a lot, too. So, some of his plays, the one, the big touchdown, that was not Martavis’ position.
“You know certain things, so, we can’t sit here and say, ‘Ok, look what he did and Martavis didn’t do,’ because he was catching balls at different positions. So, it’s not quite the same, but it’s really about how Martavis wants to take it. Does he want to sit here and say, ‘Ok, he had a big game, let me step my game up’, or does he want to say, ‘He had a big game but it wasn’t kind of at my position, he didn’t make the catches I would have.’? It’s really all about how he wants to take it.”
Even though Bryant wasn’t allowed to participate in the game against the Lions, Roethlisberger made it clear on Wednesday that the wide receiver still seemed to be involved and invested in the contest while standing on the sideline watching the action.
“I thought he had a great attitude,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he was very encouraging to guys, it wasn’t like he was just standing on his own and kind of pouting, or whatever. I felt like he was high-fiving guys, he was celebrating when we scored, he seemed really into the game and I thought that was encouraging.”
Roethlisberger went on to say that he has talked to Bryant since Sunday’s win over the Lions and he asked the wide receiver if he had yet to breakdown the tape of the game. He indicated that he and Bryant both discussed some of the things that fellow Steelers wide receiver Justin Hunter did against the Lions.
“He was very engaging, very in to it and so, I’m really excited to come off the bye week and kind of see what Martavis is going to be bringing to us,” Roethlisberger said.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Bryant is expected to be back in uniform and playing again after the team’s bye week and that’s not overly surprising. Now that this year’s trade deadline has passed, Bryant can now focus on having a much better second half of the season than his first half and Roethlisberger expects that to be the case.
“I’m excited, I think he’s going to have a great second half, I mean, I need to have a great second half, so, if we both have great second halves, I think we can be a successful offense,” Roethlisberger said.