The Steelers have been an exciting team through a good bit of the first half of their 2017 schedule, a first half that saw them get to their bye with a 6-2 record. But in Mike Tomlin's view, if the Steelers had made some of the splash plays that were there for the making, the excitement level might have been lower and their win total might have been higher.
"Man, we left some out there," said Tomlin about the game-changing plays the Steelers didn't make over the first half of 2017. "I think about Martavis running down the field on the first play in Chicago. I think about Ryan Shazier on the last defensive play in Detroit. Great teams seem like they have a flair for the dramatic. They make those plays when given the opportunity, and yes, we've made some. And yes, we're in a good spot, but we want to be in a better spot. And so we have to make more of those."
Speaking of Bryant, Tomlin said his 6-foot-4 wide receiver is out of the social media doghouse and can be expected to play a part in the Steelers' 1 p.m. game against the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday.
"He did a nice job of dealing with the suspension and working hard to get better at his craft, and with that being said, we're moving forward," said Tomlin. "But as in all cases – even with the injured guys – we'll let preparation and what happens in that preparation be our guide moving forward, but I'm comfortable with the trajectory of where he is in terms of coming off the missed action."
When asked what Bryant did specifically to make him comfortable, Tomlin said, "He just came to work with a good attitude, like everyone else."
There could be a juxtaposition between more splash plays and Bryant returning to the lineup against a Colts defense that will come into Sunday's game ranked last in the NFL in points allowed, second-to-last in passing yards allowed, and second-to-last in total yards allowed.
The Steelers have played the Colts in each of the past three seasons, and in 2014 Bryant caught five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns, and in 2015 he caught four passes for 114 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown. Bryant missed all of the 2016 season because of a suspension.
"We've had opportunities for splash plays on offense that were missed over the first half of the year that could have made our journey easier," said Tomlin, "and we've had splash plays on defense missed, specifically an interception opportunity at the end of our last ballgame (by Shazier in Detroit) that could have created a scenario where our offense wouldn't have had to earn a first down for us to secure a victory."
Teams routinely spend their bye week analyzing various aspects of their own performance, and Tomlin said the two elements he concluded needed to improve over the course of the second half of the regular season were turnover ratio (the Steelers were minus-1) and splash plays.
"Cashing in on splash-play opportunities – I don't think enough is written and said about that," said Tomlin. "A lot of times we talk about minutiae and interesting things and statistical things and so forth, but I think being a group that's opportunistic and being capable of cashing in on opportunities when presented needs to define us over the course of the second half of the year."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"The bye week was an opportunity for a number of guys who have missed time to get back in the fold. It was good from that perspective, but we won't assume anything. We'll continue to watch the guys who have missed time in preparation for this game and make necessary plans according to what we see. Those guys being Stephon Tuitt working his way back from his back injury; Marcus Gilbert working his way back from his hamstring injury; Vance McDonald working his way back from his knee injury; and a guy I didn't mention before was Mike Mitchell, who experienced an Achilles injury toward the end of the football game in Detroit. We essentially shut (Mitchell) down last week. We'll get him revved back up and see where he is in terms of game readiness as we push forward in this preparation."