Big Ben challenges rookie wideout

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
4:00
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turned a question about Martavis Bryant into a challenge for the rookie wide receiver.

“He needs to get in his mind that he can help us and that he’s going to push it hard on every single play like the guys ahead of him are doing,” Roethlisberger said. “If you watch Antonio Brown, he scores on that second play [against the Buffalo Bills last Saturday] because that’s how he practices. Every day in practice when he catches a slant he’s going to score even if guys touch him down.

“That’s how he practices and that’s how he plays and that’s what transitions into big things like that. As a young guy [Bryant] needs to keep learning from the veteran guys, and I think he will do that because he wants to be a great receiver.”

Bryant has all of the physical ability to succeed at this level, and the fourth-round draft pick could give the Steelers’ offense something it has rarely had with Roethlisberger at the controls of it: a tall wideout who can really run.

The 6-foot-4, 211-pounder consistently made plays in training camp, and in two preseason games Bryant has three catches for 37 yards while also drawing a pass interference penalty that resulted in a long gain.

But Bryant has lost a fumble and nearly committed another turnover by dropping a punt.

Pro Bowler Brown said Bryant simply has to let the game come to him when he is playing under the lights.

“When you’re excited you tend to run [routes] quicker and want to catch the ball quicker,” Brown said. “I think he just has to take practice to the game. He’s a little raw right now, but I think he’s going to be able to help us out as this thing unfolds.”

So does Roethlisberger.

And the 11th-year veteran has long wanted a tall wide receiver to throw deep to as well as target when the Steelers are inside an opponent's 20-yard line.

Roethlisberger hasn’t had a rangy and speedy wide receiver since 2004, the one season he threw to Plaxico Burress before the latter signed with the New York Giants as an unrestricted free agent.

“What [Bryant] can bring is kind of what Plax did, a big body down the field, guys have to respect that speed,” Roethlisberger said. “I think if he can get to Plax’s level we’ll be happy with that.”

Roethlisberger said Bryant is nowhere close to that yet, which is why he is pushing the Clemson product and not coddling him.

When asked if he would like to get some work with Bryant Thursday night when the Steelers play the Philadelphia Eagles, Roethlisberger said, “He’s got to earn his way up into the first group. We’ve got guys right now ahead of him on the depth chart that are playing at a high level. So he’s really going to have to bust his butt. If he can prove that he deserves to be there then we’ll give him all the reps he wants.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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