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Roethlisberger challenges Bryant to 'toughen up'

| Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, 7:12 p.m.

While coach Mike Tomlin attributed Martavis Bryant's departure from Sunday's game in Cleveland to an unspecified “minor injury,” the big-play, dynamic wide receiver the Steelers have come to expect has been missing for a lot longer than 2½ quarters.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took an opportunity during his weekly radio show to deliver a public message to his precocious receiver.

“He needs to understand — and this is coming from love from me and other guys — that this time of year, you've got to toughen up,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday on 93.7 FM. “You've got to get tough and you've got to make tough plays and you've got to make tough catches and you have to find ways to do everything you can to help this team.”

Bryant hasn't scored a touchdown in any of his past four games after having 16 over his first 18 NFL games.

He doesn't have a catch of more than 15 yards in any of his past three games after having at least one catch of more than 15 yards in 18 of his first 19 NFL games.

Over the past two games, he has two receptions for 6 yards. Bryant has had some drops, and some balls that hit his hands but he didn't catch in recent games, too. He has caught just two of six targets the past two games.

Bryant sat out two practices last week because of illness, something Tomlin attributed to Bryant playing only 12 snaps Sunday. Tomlin denied Bryant was benched because of a lack of effort or a mental error during a first-quarter Roethlisberger interception.

“Oftentimes, when young guys don't get an opportunity to practice, they lack a little detail in play,” Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger said he “loves to challenge” Bryant, who stands 6-foot-4 and has 4.4 speed in the 40.

“The sky's the limit for him, so I want to challenge him to be the best in the world,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 FM.

“It's really up to him what he wants to do with that challenge — does he want to crumble and wilt and pout and let it bother him? Or does he want to rise up, step up and say, ‘I'm going to take that challenge, and I'm going to be the best in the world?' ”

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