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Bryant another step closer

Posted Aug 12, 2017

Suiting up for warmup before preseason opener 'a great feeling.'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. _ Wide receiver Martavis Bryant didn’t play in the Steelers’ preseason opener but he was still able to put on his uniform, run routes and catch passes again during the pregame warmup at MetLife Stadium.

It was another significant step toward being fully reinstated by the NFL from the indefinite suspension that cost Bryant the 2016 season.

“Just happy the process went through and I’m happy to be back out with my brothers playing football,” he said after the Steelers’ preseason-opening, 20-12 victory over the New York Football Giants on Friday night. “It felt good to be in a stadium, period.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s been a long time coming, I worked hard. I’m just happy the process is almost over.”

The Steelers were informed on Wednesday that the NFL had cleared Bryant to “participate in all preseason activities, including practices and games,” according to a statement from General Manager Kevin Colbert.

The statement also said Bryant “will continue to be evaluated as to his readiness to participate in regular-season activities under the terms of his conditional reinstatement.”

Bryant said he didn’t know what that would involve.

“I have no clue, honestly,” he said. “All I have to do is just worry about what I have to do, take care of my business and continue to be on the path that I am now and I’ll be fine. My agent and  Kevin and Mr. Rooney (Steelers president Art II) were talking to the league about it. Whatever needs to get done, they’re going to make sure I do it.

“I’m just happy the process is going smoothly for me.”

WATT A DEBUT: No. 1 pick T.J. Watt did what he came to do in his first preseason game with the Steelers.

Watt started at right outside linebacker and switched to left outside linebacker on the Giants’ third possession.

He finished with three solo tackles, five total tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and a pass defensed.

“I wanted to get out there and show I can rush the passer and make impact plays,” Watt said. “I think as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme you’re expected to make some plays in certain moments.

“I just wanted to go out there and put on display what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks in training camp.”

Watt also contributed in the kicking game on the kickoff return, punt and punt return teams.

“I felt like I belong here,” he said. “You look around and you see (Giants quarterback) Eli Manning, you see (Steelers quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) all dressed up and you see all the guys. At the same time, this is where I’m supposed to be.

“I believe I was born to play football and that’s why I went out there and did what I did.”

FINDING THE BALL: First-year cornerback Mike Hilton has made a habit of knocking down passes or intercepting them since OTAs.

Hilton got to the ball in the Giants game by sacking quarterback Geno Smith on a rush from the left slot, and by recovering a muff on an attempted punt return by cornerback Donte Deayon. Hilton also stopped running back Khalid Abdullah 1 yard shy of a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Steelers’ 35-yard line midway through the fourth quarter and finished with two solo tackles and one assisted tackle on special teams.

QUICK-HITTERS: Safety Jacob Hagen had a forced fumble on a kickoff return in the second quarter (the Giants recovered) … An away-from-the-ball holding penalty against cornerback Brandon Dixon negated an interception by linebacker Steven Johnson in the second quarter, Dixon was playing press-man coverage against wide receiver Travis Rudolph. Dixon was also penalized 33 yards for pass interference in the third quarter … A touchdown pass from quarterback Joshua Dobbs to tight end Xavier Grimble was negated due to a holding penalty against offensive tackle Brian Mihalik.