From the general manager to the head coach, the Steelers insist they are comfortable with Sammie Coates in an elevated role. They still have arguably the league's best trio in Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. And they still put up 351 passing yards against the New England Patriots last season without both Bryant and Bell.
The other week they played without those two, they posted 43 points on the San Francisco 49ers.
When asked about his level of disappointment in Bryant's second drug-testing-related suspension in as many years, coach Mike Tomlin simply said, "Does it matter? We will deal with it."
The team moved on a while ago. Mike Tomlin hasn't talked to his team about Bryant because he won't see them until April, when the story "will be stale," Tomlin said.
"We are going to throw the ball to the open man. Really, it’s just that simple," Tomlin said at the owners meetings. "We’ve played without him in the past. So we are not overly concerned about playing without him in 2016, to be honest with you. We have talent at the position. We’ve acquired talented men at the position. We are excited about the growth and development of Sammie Coates. I am more concerned about him, the man, as I am, him, the contributor to our offense on our football team."
The Steelers already went through the grieving process with Bryant. They decided not to cut him, they created a contingency plan with a three-year deal for Darrius Heyward-Bey, and they stressed disappointment in Bryant's actions from general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II.
The Steelers first found out about Bryant's pending suspension in late February, so they had time to adjust mentally.
Last year's Steelers showed they can navigate significant losses. This is one, but it's survivable, and Tomlin knows it.
"More than anything, it’s about doing what is required to win games," Tomlin said. "I don’t think a lot about an offensive unit, or a defensive unit or a special teams unit. I think a lot about the Pittsburgh Steelers and what we need to do to get out of stadiums with wins. I don’t spend a lot of time looking exclusively at one entity of the team, from that standpoint."
The wild card is Coates. If he capitalizes on an increased role, that makes everything easier for the Steelers. He specialized in catching deep balls at Auburn, so perhaps the team lets him loose downfield.
But even if he struggles, there's enough balance offensively to win most weeks.