Steelers coach Tomlin not concerned about replacing Bryant
BOCA RATON, Fla. — If you are concerned about how the Steelers are going to replace Martavis Bryant's production and game-altering athleticism in the lineup, Mike Tomlin offered up some advice — don't sweat it, because he's not.
Tomlin told a small group of reporters Monday at the Boca Raton Resort and Club at the NFL's annual meeting that he's not “overly concerned” about his team being without Bryant for the 2016 season after the wide receiver was suspended last week for violating the league's substance abuse policy for the second time in less than a year.
“We are going to throw the ball to the open man,” Tomlin said when asked about how the Steelers will replace Bryant's productivity. “Really, it is that simple. We have played without him in the past and we are not overly concerned about playing without him in '16, to be honest with you.”
Bryant was suspended for a “minimum” of one year last week after reportedly failing to appear for at least two drug tests. A missed drug test is considered a failed drug test by the league. Bryant was already suspended for four games at the start of 2015 for violating the substance-abuse policy. A suspension doesn't incur until the fourth such failure. A fifth is a 10-game suspension and the sixth is a year suspension.
Bryant broke his silence Monday with a statement to the National Football Post.
“I sincerely apologize to the Rooney family, the great Pittsburgh Steelers organization, coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert, my teammates and all of the outstanding Steelers fans and, of course, my mother and children for what happened,” Bryant said. “I regret that my actions led to this punishment from the NFL and that I won't be able to play football this year. I'm committed to making this right and realizing my full potential, on and off the field. I will spend this year devoting myself to improvement mentally, physically and spiritually to become the best Martavis Bryant I can be.
“I look forward to resuming my NFL career next year, and I promise to come back strong. Playing in the NFL is a privilege that I respect and my future actions will reflect just how seriously I take this game and the honor that it is to be a part of this league. Please respect my privacy and my family's privacy during this difficult time. I will have no further comment at this time.”
Bryant's loss would seemingly be a sizable blow to an offense that features stars at every position — Ben Roethlisberger (quarterback), Antonio Brown (wide receiver), Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams (running back) and newly acquired Ladarius Green (tight end).
The offense was considerably better with Bryant in the lineup since the Steelers used a fourth-round pick on him in 2014.
With Bryant in the lineup, the Steelers are 16-8 and averaged 27.8 points. With Bryant out of the lineup, they are 6-5 and averaged 22.2 points. Bryant has caught 14 touchdown passes in 21 career games.
Tomlin is confident the Steelers have the players to overcome Bryant's loss. The Steelers used a third-round pick on Sammie Coates last year and re-signed veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey two weeks ago to go along with Markus Wheaton and Brown.
“We have talent at the position,” Tomlin said. “We have acquired talent at the position. We are excited about the growth and development of Sammie Coates. I am more concerned with (Bryant) as a man (than) I am with the contributor on offense to our football team.”
Tomlin said he has yet to talk to Bryant since the suspension was handed down last week.
While owner Art Rooney and general manager Kevin Colbert recently said they were disappointed in Bryant's actions that forced a second suspension in less that a year, Tomlin refused to specifically label it that way Monday.
“Does it matter?” Tomlin said. “We will deal with it.”
As of now, Bryant won't be able to be around the team for the entire year, however, that might change over the next couple of days.
Tomlin said the owners are discussing altering rules regarding players who have been suspended for the season to allow them to be around the team in some capacity.
“I think right now they are outlining rules here at this ownership meeting of what can and cannot be done regarding guys in his situation,” Tomlin said. “Until we get clarity on that we are proceeding with the rules as is and that means no interaction.”