Steelers notebook: Martavis Bryant accepts criticism from Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown
January 6, 2016 8:10 PM
Ben Roethlisberger wants Martavis Bryant to play up to his potential. "...He is a special player when the ball gets in his hand as well. A 3- or 4-yard pass can turn into an 80-yarder quick because he is that talented."
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One day after his quarterback publicly called him out for his recent lackluster performances, Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant admitted he was coming back to balls a little harder Wednesday in practice. “Just trying to get back to basics,” he said.
In other words, the message got through loud and clear.
“It was good for him to challenge me, and I’m going to accept it,” Bryant said. “He’s the leader of the team. If he feels like you need to step up your game, it’s his job to call you out. I’m happy he did it. He woke me up, and I’m going to get back to work.”
Roethlisberger on playoffs, Bryant, running backs
Ben Roethlisberger talks to the media about this weeks playoff game against the Bengals, his comments about Martavis Bryant and the backup running backs. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/6/2016)
Bryant is second on the team behind Antonio Brown in receiving yards (765) and receiving touchdowns (six), but he struggled at the end of the regular season. He did not score in the final four games and caught just two passes.
Four days before the Steelers’ AFC wild-card playoff game against the Bengals, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger challenged Bryant to “tough it up” Tuesday on his weekly radio show. Roethlisberger said he also talked to Bryant the same day about some of his shortcomings.
“I just felt like we need him,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “I love that guy like a little brother. I just wanted him to know we need him to step up. It was nothing more than a challenge. That’s all.”
Roethlisberger wasn’t the only one to confront Bryant. All-Pro receiver Brown also took Bryant aside after practice for some extra work and had a talk with him.
“I talk with him a lot,” Brown said. “I grabbed him after practice to catch some off the JUGS [machine]. I asked him, ‘Hey, do you want to win a Super Bowl?’ The season that we just embarked on is over. It’s a new season, and we have an opportunity to create a new identity.”
Former Steelers running back Merril Hoge, now an analyst for ESPN, called Bryant “sloppy” and “lazy” Wednesday morning on his weekly appearance on 102.5 WDVE-FM.
Bryant missed two days of practice last week with an illness and was listed as questionable for the Browns game. He dressed and played in the first quarter, but did not play much after Roethlisberger threw an interception on a pass play that targeted him.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Bryant did not get back in the game because of his illness and a minor neck issue. Bryant went through a full practice Wednesday and said being able to practice will help with his preparation for the Bengals.
“Practice always makes perfect,” Bryant said. “Last week, I missed a couple of days because I was sick. This week, my body feels great and I feel great.”
Same intensity, fewer penalties
The Steelers would like to bring the same amount of intensity they had for the game last month in Cincinnati. But they would like to do it without drawing penalty flags from officials.
“I would hope we can match that or even get a level above that,” outside linebacker James Harrison said. “That’s just something that I feel we should come out with every game.”
When the two teams met Dec. 13, the NFL doled out nearly $150,000 in fines to both, and the Steelers were penalized five times for 82 yards.
“I expect both teams to go out there and give everything they’ve got and play the game above the neck and make sure they don’t do anything to hurt their team,” Harrison said. “Any extracurricular activities would be and should be out of the question if you’re looking to help your team. There’s a difference between intensity and foolishness. It’s a fine line, and you have to be able to know when you’re about to cross that line and not cross it.”
Fellow outside linebacker Arthur Moats echoed Harrison’s thoughts.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “We’re all professionals out there. It’s the playoffs, and we understand what’s at stake. We understand we have to get this win. We don’t need anyone getting suspended or kicked out of a game for doing something dumb.”
Running back DeAngelo Williams (foot) and linebacker Vince Williams (illness) did not practice Wednesday.
If Williams cannot play, Jordan Todman will back up Fitzgerald Toussaint. Todman was not active for the final five games and only had four carries for 22 yards this season.
“I was blessed to be here all 16 weeks and pick up the offense, run it in practice, watch the film,” Todman said. “The repetitions have allowed me to play faster.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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