Steelers WR Bryant downplays reported trade demand
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Yes, Martavis Bryant wants a trade.
To the Golden State Warriors.
Otherwise, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver insists he’s just fine even after multiple reports that he asked the team to ship him elsewhere.
Asked Monday if he’d like a change of scenery, Bryant reiterated he’s happy in Pittsburgh.
“I’m doing fine, everything is good,” he said.
Even if — at least statistically — in his return from a year-plus suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy has been underwhelming.
Bryant caught two passes for 27 yards in Sunday’s 19-13 victory over Kansas City and has just 17 receptions and one touchdown through six games for the first-place Steelers (4-2). His 13.6 yards per catch is more than 4 yards below his career average while splitting playing time with rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“I ain’t complaining,” Bryant said. “I know my potential. I know what I can do. So the little bit I get or whatever I get, I’ve got to make the best of it. Everything else isn’t in my control.”
Bryant had five 40-plus yard receptions in both 2014 and 2015 while developing into one of the NFL’s top deep threats, but saw his promising career put on hold after getting suspended in the spring of 2016.
He spent a year away from the game trying to get his life in order and is one of the few players handed multiple drug suspensions to make it all the way back to the league.
Would Bryant like a larger role? Of course. So would every other player on an offense that already features the highest-paid wide receiver (Antonio Brown) and running back (Le’Veon Bell) in the league.
“I haven’t expressed unhappiness,” Bryant said. ”(We are) just talking about some of the things I can do better.”
Bryant has caught less than half of the 35 passes thrown his way, but downplayed any lack of chemistry with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger saying “for the most part, it’s been pretty good.”
The two have narrowly misfired on several field-flipping plays, including a deep pass on the first snap against Chicago last month that would have been a touchdown had the wide-open Bryant been able to bring in a pass that glanced off his fingertips.
“I feel like I’m doing pretty good with the opportunities I’ve had,” he said.
Bryant shrugged off the uproar the news of his trade request made, though he declined to get specific on whether it was true. His teammates seemed to enjoy the chaos, roaring as reporters crowded around Bryant’s locker, a not uncommon sight.
“I’ve been through a lot dealing with the media and everything,” Bryant said. “This is nothing.”
The Steelers have rarely made impactful midseason trades and despite the early sluggishness, there are few receivers in the league who have the 6-foot-4 Bryant’s mix of size and speed.
Throw in their attentiveness as he worked through his off-field problems and the fact any further missteps could potentially end his career, it seems unlikely the Steelers could get an adequate return for Bryant even if they opted to move on.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said the team plane erupted in laughter when the news of Bryant’s reported request broke as they made their way home from Kansas City after taking care of the unbeaten Chiefs.
Pouncey brushed it off and considering the noise surrounding Pittsburgh during its uneven start, it’s hard to imagine the latest uproar proving to be a distraction for a team that can’t seem to avoid them.
One week they’re talking about Brown beating up a water cooler. The next Roethlisberger is jokingly questioning whether he still has “it.” Throw this one on the pile with the rest.
The Bryant maelstrom briefly overshadowed what the Steelers hope is a tide-turning victory.
A week after getting held without a touchdown at home by Jacksonville, they went on the road to face a team with the best record in the league and came away with a dominant performance, one they hope will resonate into January.
A loss in Kansas City, and any realistic shot at playing at Heinz Field deep into January was gone.
Now Pittsburgh finds itself alone in first in the AFC North and with a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs should it come to that later in the season.
“We want to make sure we try to get home-field advantage this year and not play on the road in the playoffs,” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “That’s a big part, beating teams early like that, great teams like that.”