During his regularly scheduled news conference today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Mike Tomlin said he's open to using William Gay more at outside linebacker. He said that excuses can be made for the turnover on the free kick following the safety, but the bottom line is someone should have covered the ball. He talked about the execution in the red zone being improved but still needing to be better. He talked about the injury situation at inside linebacker.
And of course he talked about Martavis Bryant.
Shortly after the Steelers had secured a 19-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, a report surfaced on Twitter that claimed Bryant was unsatisfied with his role on the team and had asked to be traded. Yesterday during the team's open locker room media session, Bryant denied being disgruntled, reminded the assembled media that he had tweeted "glad to be a Steeler" the night before, and joked that the only trade he would welcome would be one to the (NBA's Golden State) Warriors.
Tomlin was asked for his reaction to the Sunday night tweet.
"I have no reaction," said Tomlin.
What followed was a question about whether Bryant had talked to him about his current role within the offense and if Bryant was unhappy with that.
"He hasn't," said Tomlin. "I've had good, fluid communication with Martavis throughout this process, like I have with all of the other players. He was a big contributor to our efforts on Sunday. He was excited like everyone else. I don't know where these reports come from. Sometimes they come from family members or people close to them, sometime they might come from agents. I don't judge him or my relationship with him based on things said by others. He appears to be happy and focused, so it's a non-issue for us."
Bryant caught two passes for 27 yards against the Chiefs, and through six games he ranks fourth on the team in receptions with 17 for 213 yards and one touchdown.
"I think he's doing great," said Tomlin about Bryant's progress in getting back on track following a one-year suspension. "We've outlined this pretty regularly in recent weeks. I like where he is. He's acknowledging that getting back on the train is a process, and I think the process is going well because of that acknowledgment. I think I said that a week ago, and it's all still very true."
Simply examining the statistics could lead one to believe Bryant was a minor factor in the team's victory over the previously undefeated Chiefs, but those numbers don't indicate the impact his blocking had on Le'Veon Bell's 179 yards rushing. Bell finished the game with seven runs of 10 yards or longer, and those don't happen without the wide receivers handling defensive backs down the field.
"Just play a complete game," said Tomlin when asked what a wide receiver can do to impress besides catching passes. "Blocking assignments, just have detail in those assignments. Be a contributor, not only in the passing game but the running game whether you have the ball or you don't have the ball. Be a complete football player, and a football player first, as we like to say."
After the Sept. 24 game in Chicago, Tomlin was asked about distractions, and he said he welcomes them to a degree, because they can harden a team for what it figures to face down the stretch of a regular season and into the phase when play becomes single-elimination.
"I don't know that this is a legitimate distraction," said Tomlin. "You guys can run with it as such. Martavis has been very open about the fact it is a non-issue for him. We believe him, so we're moving forward. Where it's coming from, the unnamed source and things of that nature, I'll leave to you guys to ponder and digest. But it's not a real distraction for us."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Marcus Gilbert re-injured his hamstring. He's down in the training room getting treatment right now. I don't know what this week holds for him. We'll let his availability and participation in practice be our guide there. I'm optimistic about Ramon Foster's participation coming off the game missed. We'll watch him during the early portions of the week. Vince Williams had a hip injury. I'm optimistic about him, but we'll watch him in terms of how he works this week, along with Tyler Matakevich. Tyler has a shoulder injury. With Vince and Tyler at the same position, that bears watching. In terms of the rotations and the availability there, we'll get clarity, I'm sure later today and into tomorrow … L.J. Fort is one of those unique guys. He's third on the depth chart (at inside linebacker) but he's been here for a number of years, so I'm comfortable not only with his ability but with his knowledge and exposure as well."