Steelers’ Martavis Bryant works with 1st-team offense, vows to make fresh start
Martavis Bryant was back working with the first-team offense Monday when the Steelers resumed practice after a four-day break on their bye.
The issue is whether the embattled wide receiver will be in that same spot Sunday when the Steelers open the second half of their season at the Indianapolis Colts.
After being benched against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 29 because of his controversial social media posts, Bryant is looking for a chance to rejoin his teammates on the field. He has been given no indication the benching will extend past that one game.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be out there,” Bryant said. “It’s a long week. It’s only Monday. I’ll come back in here Wednesday, get the game plan and go from there.”
Bryant’s representatives had asked the Steelers for a trade, but one was not granted by the Oct. 31 deadline. Bryant is bound to the Steelers contractually through the 2018 season.
Coach Mike Tomlin approached Bryant in the locker room Monday after practice and joked about all of the television cameras surrounding the wide receiver’s locker. It was a much lighter mood than Tomlin displayed after the 20-15 win over the Lions when he was asked whether he was confident Bryant could contribute in the second half.
“I’m not,” Tomlin said. “We’ll see.”
Bryant heard Tomlin’s words but doesn’t share in his coach’s lack of confidence.
“That ain’t my business to worry about what someone else says,” Bryant said. “Even though he’s the coach, I still have to go out and prepare and show him what I’m capable of. You have to pull yourself along. I wasn’t down on myself at all about what he said.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley envisions Bryant playing a part in the Steelers offense over the final eight games.
“I just want to see continued growth,” Haley said last week. “I’ve said all along, he’s been real close on a number of things. He has made some big plays for us. Not taking into account some of the outside things that I don’t worry about. We coach the guys that are out there and playing.
“He had a good week last week in that role that he was playing from a practice standpoint. That was a positive.”
When Tomlin informed Bryant of his benching, he had Bryant spend that week of practice working with the scout team, wearing a green jersey to emulate Lions receiver Marvin Jones.
Bryant believes his days practicing with the third-teamers are over.
“The scout team was for me to work on my craft when I wasn’t playing,” he said. “It was nothing permanent. People took it the wrong way.”
Veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was watching for signs of Bryant being distracted or discouraged by the benching. He didn’t see any during practice or in film study that week.
“He showed great maturity last week being on the scout team and practicing hard and in our meeting room,” Heyward-Bey said. “He’s the same guy. He’s paying attention. He’s on top of details.”
Heyward-Bey said he didn’t take issue with Bryant being frustrated by his role in the Steelers offense. Bryant has 18 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown. He’s fifth on the team in receptions and third in yards, trailing NFL receiving yardage leader Antonio Brown and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“Frustration is going to happen,” Heyward-Bey said. “I’m frustrated. I want some playing time. But, hey, I know my role, and I’m fine with that. He’s going to be all right.”
Bryant spent his four-day break in Las Vegas with his girlfriend and young son. It is where he spent his yearlong absence while serving his suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“I worked out and chilled,” he said. “It was good ‘R and R’ time.”
Now, he’s ready to get back to work and make a fresh start in the second half of the Steelers’ season.
“We’ve got a long season to go, still,” he said. “I have to finish, work hard and make the best of all situations and go from there.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.