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Steelers bench Martavis Bryant for social media antics

Joe Rutter
| Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, 4:06 p.m.

Mike Tomlin promised to “rain down” a punishment on disgruntled wide receiver Martavis Bryant, and he delivered a symbolic hail storm Wednesday.

Bryant said Tomlin has benched him for the Steelers' game Sunday night against the Detroit Lions because of the receiver's controversial social media comments.

“I'm not playing Sunday, which is fine,” Bryant said Wednesday afternoon. “I'm not trippin'. It is what it is.”

Bryant said he talked with Tomlin on Tuesday, the day after he called in sick and missed film review and positional meetings.

“We are both on same page and are moving on,” Bryant said. “What happened has happened. All we can do is learn from it, get better and move on.”

Bryant was demoted to the scout team for practice Wednesday. He wore a green pinney in practice to portray Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones.

“The show must go on even if I'm not playing,” Bryant said. “I still have to work on my craft.”

The game against the Lions is the last for the Steelers prior to the NFL's Oct. 31 trading deadline. Tomlin said the Steelers have no intention of trading Bryant, who has 18 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown in seven games since returning from a year-long suspension.

“If I'm not traded, I'm going to work my butt off here and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “You're not going to hear me complaining no more. I'm just going to be quiet and let everything fall into place.”

Bryant will be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season.

He said he was not fined or told to stay off social media, although he has decided on his own to take a break from his online accounts.

On Sunday night, hours after he had one catch for 3 yards against Cincinnati, Bryant responded to an Instagram comment about rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster being a better receiver by downplaying the rookie's abilities.

“JuJu is no where near better than me, fool,” Bryant wrote in a post that was later deleted. “All they need to do is give me what I want and y'all can have JuJu and whoever else.”

Bryant said he took to social media out of “frustration” and meant no disrespect to Smith-Schuster, the NFL's youngest player who has 17 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

“I didn't mean it like that,” Bryant said. “People outside of football seen what it was, but me and him both been on the same page. We know we want to be one of the best, and we both know we want to be better than each other. It's just being competitive.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Tuesday he planned to talk to Bryant about ways they can get him more involved in the offense.

“I'm the guy that throws the ball, so if you're unhappy about something, come talk to me,” Roethlisberger said. “Maybe there is something we can figure out together to make it better.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, that meeting hadn't taken place, Bryant said. Roethlisberger also said the 25-year-old receiver has been a model teammate in the locker room and on the field since returning from his suspension.

“You never hear him complain,” Roethlisberger said. “I never hear him on the field — crying, complaining, wanting the ball, throwing his hands up, not running hard, doing things like that.

“You see him blocking hard after guys catch the ball during runs. I grab him on the sideline and talk about the (images of plays) like I do with other guys, and he's very engaging.”

Said Bryant: “I'm a great teammate. I don't have a beef with nobody in here. I love everybody in here. I work hard with everybody.”

On another Instagram post, Bryant wrote “I just want mines, period, point-blank. Ain't nobody did nothing to get me back. I worked my (butt) off to get myself back with no help and little support, period.”

That post was viewed as a disparaging remark against the Steelers, who brought Bryant back after he served his suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Bryant clarified his comments Wednesday.

“They stood by me. They didn't cut me,” he said. “So they definitely stood by me, but as far as me wanting to and me going out and doing the things I needed to do, I did it on my own.”

Bryant didn't think his return from suspension would be easy, and he had no expectations about playing time or his role in the offense when he rejoined the team. He also doesn't want his return to go to waste.

“I worked hard to get back,” he said. “Nobody gave me nothing. Nobody helped me get back. I made myself get back. I went through those times by myself. As far as me coming back and expecting I was going to have everything my way, no, I didn't expect that. But at the same time nobody helped me get back, nobody thought I was coming back. I did it on my own without anybody helping me.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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