PITTSBURGH -- Ever since Plaxico Burress left the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2004 season, Ben Roethlisberger's rookie year, the veteran quarterback has lobbied for a tall receiver to replace Burress.
There were several attempts to secure that player, such as 6-foot-4 Fred Gibson, a fourth-round pick in 2005; 6-3 Dallas Baker, a seventh-rounder in 2007; 6-4 Limas Sweed, a second-round debacle in 2008; and 6-8 Wes Lyons, a free agent signing in 2011.
Enter 6-4 Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick this year, as the Steelers' latest attempt to fill that tall wideout spot that has been open for a decade. Justin Brown, a 6-3, sixth-round draft pick in 2013; and 6-5 Derek Moye are two other tall wideouts battling for spots among the Steelers receiving corps.
"It doesn't hurt to have a few guys like that,'' Roethlisberger said.
Brown and Moye appear to be vying for the same spot on the roster, while higher draft pick Bryant likely would have to be a colossal failure to be cut. Still, that hasn't stopped Bryant from working hard this spring. And it hasn't stopped Steelers coach Mike Tomlin from busting Bryant's chops every chance he gets.
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"I just take it as coaching,'' Bryant said. "He has everyone's best interest at heart, and he just wants what's best for the team. So, of course, I'm going to listen to everything that he says and do what he asks me to do.
"So, it's good that he's hard on me. I'm not where I need to be going into training camp. I need to get in better shape, and I still have a lot to work on. I still have a lot of learning to do.''
Bryant has been playing the Steelers "Z'' wide receiver spot exclusively this year, which means he has been involved with a lot of long pass routes.
"That's where they put me when I got here,'' Bryant said. "I'm not complaining, but I would have played anywhere that they put me. The long balls, I think that comes with it, but they've been running some plays for that just to see what I can do with it. Coming from college to here, none of it was what I thought it would be.
"Everyone is smarter, and everyone takes better care of their body more. And everyone puts a lot into what they do. I knew a little bit about that process before I came in here after talking with some of the dudes who previously played with me, but I really found out about it once I got here. I took care of my body before, but now you really need to do more than what the other player might do.''
Notes: Thursday's final mini-camp practice ended prematurely due to the torrential downpour that hit the Pittsburgh area. The Steelers practiced outside and then moved inside halfway through the workout.