Steelers' Martavis Bryant: 'I got to go' if role doesn't change
Martavis Bryant wants the ball more. Ben Roethlisberger wants to be part of that conversation. And Mike Tomlin wants to talk about football rather than his disgruntled wide receiver's role in the Steelers offense.
Tomlin made that clear Tuesday afternoon when the Bryant saga took a few more twists and turns.
“I have no desire to sit up here with a catcher's mitt and field questions about Martavis and his social-media habits,” Tomlin said early in his weekly news conference.
Questions, however, were unavoidable after Bryant told ESPN earlier in the day he would prefer to play elsewhere if he doesn't get more targets in the passing game. Bryant has 18 catches for 234 yards through seven games. He was targeted twice and had one catch for 3 yards Sunday in the Steelers' 29-14 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bryant called in sick Monday and missed film review and positional meetings. This, of course, came after he used Instagram on Sunday night to denounce rookie wide-receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. And that sideshow came a week after NFL Network reported Bryant wants to be traded. Bryant denied the report but told a different story to ESPN on Tuesday.
“I mean, if things don't get better, then I got to go,” Bryant said.
That's not happening, Tomlin said emphatically and without provocation.
“We've invested a lot in Martavis since we drafted him, and he's not available via a trade,” Tomlin said. “We've invested a lot, and we've covered a lot of ground. It's obvious we still have more ground to cover with him because we're having a conversation about him that's not football related.”
Bryant's football contributions were undeniable in his first two seasons when he averaged 17.3 yards per catch on 76 receptions for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns. Bryant is averaging 13 yards per catch and has just one touchdown this season.
Bryant told ESPN he hasn't expressed his unhappiness to Tomlin.
“We don't communicate about this because I've been holding it in, and I ain't been saying nothing to nobody,” he said. “I just been keeping it to myself and just talking to my receivers coach every now and then about it. But it just keeps happening.
“I mean, I'm a team player. I'm not trying to act like I'm being selfish, because I'm not being selfish. It's I just want to help contribute, and I want to be the best player I can be.”
Tomlin indicated he will have a conversation with Bryant on Wednesday.
“When I do, I'll rain down my judgment, and we'll move forward,” Tomlin said. “He's a good guy to work with in the building and he has been. … He says some things when he's not around us that are somewhat of a distraction, and I say somewhat because we're having to field questions about it, not because it's high on my damn agenda.”
On his Instagram post Sunday, Bryant responded to a commenter who suggested Smith-Schuster, a 20-year-old rookie who had three touchdowns, was the better receiver.
“JuJu is no where near better than me, fool,” Bryant wrote. “All they need to do is give me what I want and y'all can have JuJu and whoever else.”
The post later was deleted and replaced by one that was complimentary of Smith-Schuster, but also indicated the Steelers were of little help to Bryant during his suspension.
“Ain't nobody did nothing to get me back. I worked my ass off to get myself back with no help and little support, period. In due time the process will show,” Bryant wrote.
Tomlin called the social media posts “out of bounds.”
“It's OK to want more playing time and want to be a central reason why we are successful provided you relay that in an appropriate way,” Tomlin said. “Social media is not the appropriate way.”
Roethlisberger agreed and said Bryant should have brought his concerns to him.
“Come talk to your quarterback,” Roethlisberger told 93.7 FM on his weekly radio segment.
Roethlisberger said he exchanged text messages with Bryant on Monday and wants to meet Wednesday.
“He was telling me about his frustrations and whatever, and he told me he's talked to the coaches,” Roethlisberger said. “I said, ‘Tay, the one thing you haven't done is talk to me. Come talk to me. How can I help you? Let's figure out a way and game plan that me as a quarterback, I can talk to you. I can help you. I can talk through an issue you may have, whatever it may be.' ”
Bryant told ESPN he won't re-sign with the Steelers after the 2018 season unless he becomes a bigger component of the offense.
“That's his prerogative, and that's fine,” Roethlisberger said. “Then give us these next two years. Let's get the most out of him because we can use him.
“I'm excited for what can come. I know people are upset because you don't talk about a teammate, but he can help us. I'm not giving up on him, and I hope he's not giving up on himself. So let's find a way to use him.”