The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been told by head coach Mike Tomlin that he’s been demoted to the scout team after he spent the past few days complaining about his role in the offense.
Justin Hunter took Bryant’s spot in offense in practice.
Tomlin said that Bryant is not playing Sunday against the Detroit Lions and that his benching is a result of his actions on social media.
On Sunday night, Bryant was tagged on a comment from an Instagram post by @fantasyfootballcounselor pointing out how Bryant didn’t get the ball on a play intended for Antonio Brown during the Steelers’ 29-14 win over Cincinnati.
Bryant responded in a since-deleted comment that was screengrabbed and shared on social media.
“JuJu is no where near better than me, fool,” Bryant commented. “All they need to do is give me what I want and y’all can have JuJu and whoever else.”
Martavis Bryant REALLY wants out of Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/laQqxPfcs3
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 23, 2017
Bryant then clarified those remarks with a new comment that tagged Smith-Schuster, the rookie who caught a 31-yard touchdown Sunday and has cut into Bryant’s playing time.
“JuJu is the future and got great talent and is going to be one of the best to play this game,” Bryant commented. “I want him to get his. I just want mines, period, point-blank. Ain’t nobody did nothing to get me back. I worked my ass off to get myself back with no help and little support, period. In due time the process will show.”
The NFL Network reported last week that Bryant had requested a trade, citing Bryant’s frustration with his role in the Steelers offense.
Bryant and the Steelers cooled those reports during the week, with Bryant saying publicly he did not request a trade. Coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Bryant was happy.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin later said that Bryant “was out of bounds with some of his actions in terms of the things that he said on social media. It will be dealt with appropriately. That ball is in my court. I haven’t visited with him yet. To be honest with you, I haven’t visited with him yet because I’ve had bigger fish to fry.”
Bryant, who had one catch for 3 yards in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, didn’t help his case when he didn’t show up for team meetings Monday reportedly because of an illness. His agent, Thomas Santanello, said Bryant went to see a doctor.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said earlier on Wednesday that he planned to sit down and talk with Bryant, but that conversation will come with no guarantees about increased targets for the disgruntled wideout.
“I’m not going to be a doctor and promise I’m going to save your life,” Roethlisberger said per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’m going to tell him if you’re on your details and we’re working together and I trust that you’re going to be where we’re supposed to be and you’re there, good things will happen.
“You never hear him complain. I never hear him on the field — crying, complaining, wanting the ball, throwing his hands up, not running hard, doing things like that. You see him blocking hard after guys catch the ball during runs. I grab him on the sideline and talk about the [images of plays] like I do with other guys, and he’s very engaging.”
On Tuesday, Bryant brought unwanted drama to the Steelers locker room when he told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he “got to move on” at the trade deadline if the team doesn’t want him to contribute to the offense.
“I just want to be happy, whether it’s here or it’s somewhere else,” Bryant told Anderson. “I just want to help contribute. I just want to be the best player that I can on and off the field … and I want to be given the chance to be that. But I would like for it to be here. If not, then, oh well. Just got to move on.
“I’m not being selfish, it’s just I want to help contribute & I want to be the best player that I can be. By the end of whenever the trade deadline is … I mean if things don’t get better, then I got to go.”
The trade deadline is less than week away on Oct. 31, and Bryant told Anderson that he wanted to sit down with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and discuss his situation.
“I feel like it is necessary for me to talk to everyone,” Bryant said. “I mean, I’m going to sit down and whoever wants to talk to me, I will talk to them and tell them how I feel. Ain’t no hard feelings, it’s just business.
“I’m just going to sit down and talk to everybody and see what we can get clear on. Like I said, I don’t want to go nowhere. I want to be here, but if they don’t want to use me and they don’t want to use what I am capable of doing on the field, then just send me on my way.”
A source close to the team previously stated that the Steelers have no intentions of trading Bryant, who was suspended in 2016 for multiple drug violations.
Bryant said if the Steelers don’t trade him and the issue isn’t resolved, then he’ll “just play next year out” until his contract is fulfilled.
“I feel like it’s going to come down to whether we make changes or not, whether they try to include me more or not,” Bryant said. “If they don’t try to include me more and continue to do the same thing, then I want out, period.
I’m not going to re-sign. … I’m not tripping.”
It’s unclear how long Bryant will be on the scout team, but for now he has traded places with Hunter on the depth chart, and Hunter has been inactive for most of this season.