Tim Benz: Steelers should bench Martavis Bryant, not trade him
When JuJu Smith-Schuster scored a touchdown against the Bengals Sunday, he celebrated by playing hide-and-seek with Le'Veon Bell. Smith-Schuster eventually found Bell hiding behind the goal post.
Finding Martavis Bryant would have been more difficult. He would've had to look at the bottom of the box score.
That's because Bryant had one catch, and just two targets, for three yards.
Oh, wait. How could I forget that end-around on the opening play of the game?
Probably because it went for only two yards.
When Antonio Brown threw a Gatorade cooler in Baltimore, he responded the next week with 10 catches for 157 yards.
When Le'Veon Bell asked for more carries after the loss to Jacksonville, he got 67 over the next two weeks for 313 yards.
But since Bryant's agent apparently asked for a trade at some point leading up to the Kansas City game, his client has netted 32 yards from scrimmage over the past two games.
That can also be quantified as 12 yards fewer than Rob Golden's passing total.
A line has clearly been drawn in the sand with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers coaches.
If you're an All-Pro and you call for the ball more, we'll listen. If you are an inconsistent, underachieving, oft-suspended fourth-round draft choice, we won't.
And it's time to say it. That's all Martavis Bryant has been this year. Let's stop acting like he's a poor man's Randy Moss and start describing who he has really been — a poor man's Limas Sweed.
That's pretty poor.
Now, the fourth-year receiver is skipping the agent and is complaining publicly. In response to a negative Instagram post from another user, Bryant replied: “JuJu is no where near better than me, fool. All they need to do is give me what I want and y'all can have JuJu and whoever else.”
Then he added about Smith-Schuster: “I want him to get his. I just want mines, period, point-blank.”
Apparently Bryant wants “his” elsewhere.
The Steelers should not grant him that request. Keep him. Pay him. Scratch him. Keyshawn him.
And no, I don't mean “give him the damn ball.” Tampa Bay deactivated a disgruntled Keyshawn Johnson in 2003 for the last seven games.
Pittsburgh should do the same here.
Dress Justin Hunter instead. He can get two or three catches for 30 yards per game. Those are Bryant's bland numbers after all.
If the Steelers do trade or cut Bryant, they are doing exactly what he wants. He would have successfully complained his way out of town.
And where does he wind up? New England like LeGarrette Blount? Receiver-starved Cleveland, Cincinnati or Baltimore before the Steelers play those teams again?
It would be like Bryant to catch a 60-yard TD against the Steelers while wearing a rival uniform in an important late-season game.
So, no thanks.
Especially if the trade compensation is going to be nothing but a late-round pick, which would likely be the case. What's Kevin Colbert going to do? Reacquire that Justin Gilbert sixth-round selection for a 10th time?
If Bryant and his agent are in such a state of panic about his targets, Colbert and Mike Tomlin should really make them sweat. Don't play Bryant until he proves he can keep his mouth shut.
Or in this case, keep his phone in his pocket.
It'd be one thing if Bryant was just griping after a loss. But the Steelers had just won a second consecutive important game.
And Monday he called in sick for team meetings. Plus, his social media barbs jabbed a teammate.
That's too far. Complain about your own lack of productivity on social media all you want, but degrading a teammate's success in the process is rotten.
Many reporters were waiting for Bryant to comment on his posts. Was he hacked? Did someone else post on his behalf? But he wasn't in the locker room Monday to answer those questions.
At least Smith-Schuster handled the situation in stride.
“I understand where he is coming from if I were in his shoes,” Smith-Schuster said. “There's only one ball. And we've got so many athletes on the field. And it's tough.
“And we've just got to do what's best for our team. Hopefully, we do get him the ball more. He's a great player.”
This rookie shows more polish then Bryant on the field and off of it.
Bench Bryant. He's earned it. Blow off his trade request. But not his behavior.
Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.