It would have been easy for Martavis Bryant to go into the tank early in the 2014 season, when the rookie who was accustomed to being a playmaker in college wasn't even on the field to have an opportunity to make a play for the Steelers.
Week after week, for the first six weeks of the season, Bryant was a game day inactive, a spectator on the sidelines as he learned and developed, instead of being the threat everyone expected him to be for the offense. The whole while, though, he kept his confidence high and knew his time would come.
"It never was wavering," said Bryant. "It's still football. You are just playing better talent. It makes you want to get better and play.
"It was one of those trials where you have to stay up even when you are not playing. I always held myself to a higher standard so I always want to go out and perform good, so I just go out and play hard. You have to know better days are coming. It was the same mindset I had in college when I was going through some things. I came with the same mindset until I was able to go out and do what I do."
Until he had the chance to do what he does, he had time to learn. On game day he wasn't just standing around, he was observing, taking everything in to use to his advantage when the time came.
"When I was on the sidelines I would be watching what the receivers do, watching the defensive backs, reading defenses to see how they would play," said Bryant. "Some defensive backs in the NFL are not that physical, some put their hands on you. Different ones play different ways. You just have to watch them and see what they do."
He also had another important task, earning the trust of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger had veteran weapons in Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, so Bryant had a challenge on his hands earning his trust and making sure his quarterback took notice.
"In college the quarterback talked to you every day and you come here and start over like it's your freshman year," said Bryant. "You come here and you grow more and your mind gets stronger."
Bryant finally got his shot Week 7 against the Houston Texans, and while he admitted he was nervous, it didn't appear that way. He finished the day with two receptions, including a 35-yard touchdown for his first NFL reception, one that he said was the favorite touchdown of his rookie season.
The best photos of WR Martavis Bryant from the 2014 season.
"Once I got out there I got used to it," said Bryant. "I started doing better, getting better each week. I was working hard. I had the mindset if I work hard in practice the week will be easy.
"You work hard and try to make a name for yourself. You can't be overwhelmed that you made it the NFL. Once you get here you still have a lot of work to do just to maintain and stay. The work is never over. You always have to work and grind to get better. There is always somebody there to take your job."
Bryant finished the season with 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns, including a 94-yarder in a win at Cincinnati. His goal his second season is to continue to improve and have more of an impact, and he plans on working on that this offseason. Bryant is headed to Los Angeles to work out for the early portion of the offseason, then plans on spending a month training with Antonio Brown in Florida to learn from one of the best in the game.
"I want to be consistent," said Bryant. "I want to put a great year together next year. They will be keying on me next year. They know what I am able to do. I have to take the offseason and work on my craft to get better with some of the things that will give me an advantage next year.
"The sky is the limit as long as I continue to work. I am not going to set a bar for myself."