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Steelers News: Martavis Bryant’s mystery illness keeps him from meetings and media Monday

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When the time came to face the music regarding his most recent comments, Martavis Bryant was nowhere to be found.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Like sand through the hour are the days of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If you didn’t know, that line has been the introduction to the soap opera ‘Days of our Lives’ for as long as I can remember, and it’s seemingly what the Steelers are turning into right before our very eyes.

If it isn’t Antonio Brown throwing a tantrum, Le’Veon Bell criticizing the game plan, or Martavis Bryant flipping out over wanting a trade, it’s always been something with the Steelers this season.

And when Bryant continued to try getting out of the Steel City—thinking things would be brighter elsewhere—by saying some interesting things about his teammates, he was nowhere to be found for team meetings or media availability on Monday.

His excuse? He was sick.

Bryant very well could have been sick, but I doubt he finds many sympathizers from the Steelers’ fan base. Either way, the team now has a new drama-filled question to answer leading up to Week 8 when they play the Lions.

I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to a bye-week so much, but there will probably be a new chapter to this saga by that point.

Time to check on the Steelers news outside the walls of BTSC:

After being absent from the stat sheet during much of the Steelers' 29-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, wide receiver Martavis Bryant was also absent from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Monday, missing film review and team meetings.

“He was sick. He went to the doctor,” agent Thomas Santanello told the Tribune-Review.

The timing of Bryant's illness was curious, considering it came about 12 hours after he criticized rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in a social-media message and a week after he reportedly had asked for a trade.

Bryant's frustration with his reduced role in the offense — he had one catch for three yards against the Bengals — boiled over when he responded to an Instagram comment that suggested Smith-Schuster, the precocious 20-year-old rookie, is a better receiver.

That seemed to strike a nerve with Bryant, who rejoined the Steelers this season after serving a one-year suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Wrote Bryant: “JuJu is no where near better than me, fool. All they need to do is give me what I want and y'all can have JuJu and whoever else.”

The post later was deleted and replaced by one that was complimentary of Smith-Schuster, the youngest player in the NFL.

“JuJu is the future and got great talent and is going to be one of the best to play this game. I want him to get his. I just want mines, period, point-blank. Ain't nobody did nothing to get me back. I worked my ass off to get myself back with no help and little support, period. In due time the process will show.”

At stake is Bryant's future earning potential. The Steelers hold his rights through the 2018 season. Any chance at an extension before Bryant hits free-agency would come after this season.

Teammates weren't happy that Bryant went public on social media with his unhappiness.

“I wish it didn't happen at all,” defensive captain Cam Heyward said. “To each his own. I'm not going to judge him for how he feels. He's got to be smarter when it comes down to it.”

Steelers rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is the little brother in the Steelers locker room. No one really takes him all that seriously, but there’s a reason he’s universally liked by his teammates. He knows his place as a rookie but, at the same time, he’s seamlessly become part of the fabric of this team.

It’s a delicate balance, but he’s handled the first half of his inaugural season in the NFL about as well as a 10-year veteran. The perfect example of that came on Monday afternoon when reporters were allowed into the locker room for the Steelers’ weekly 45-minute, day-after-game media session.

One moment, Smith-Schuster was playing garbage can basketball with his teammates, joking around and having fun. The next, he was thoughtfully expressing his feelings on the firestorm he was thrust into Sunday night when Martavis Bryant threw him under the bus in an Instagram post.

Smith-Schuster won’t turn 21 until next month. He’s the youngest player in the NFL and yet he speaks with the maturity of a grizzled veteran.

“I understand where he’s coming from,” Smith-Schuster said. “I can put myself in his shoes. There’s only one ball. It’s tough. At the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for our team. Just moving forward, hopefully we do get him the ball more. He’s a great player, a great athlete. I would like him to be on our team. Moving forward, I think he’s going to be big for us.”

The Steelers defense gave up a few too many rushing yards in the first half of the team’s 29-14 win against the Bengals. The Steelers offense again couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone once it got to the red zone. The Steelers kicked five field goals, about three too many.

The Steelers can improve in those areas, but their list of issues continues to shrink each week. The Steelers looked miles away from Super Bowl contenders when Jacksonville left town, now they’re right on the doorstep.

Ben Roethlisberger threw like an all-time great quarterback in the first half — he was accurate, on time and had more arm strength than in any game this year.

If Roethlisberger can continue to find the fountain of youth, the Steelers will be an extremely tough out. That’s especially true if Le’Veon Bell stays healthy. He has found his groove and is once again making his claim as the NFL’s top running back.

Bell ran the ball 35 times for 134 yards — 3.8 yards per carry — but was able to gash the Bengals throughout the entire game. He also added 58 yards receiving, including a short pass turned into a 42-yard reception highlighted with a stiff arm of Bengals defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick.

The Steelers defense was a tale of two halves. The Bengals scored both of their touchdowns in the first half, and tailback Joe Mixon ran seven times for 48 yards. They had a total of 160 yards in the first half, and it looked like the game might develop into a shootout. That never materialized because the Steelers defense showed up to shut the Bengals down completely. Mixon didn’t even get a carry in the second half, and the Bengals had a total of 19 yards. Once the Steelers had a lead, the Bengals were forced to throw. That’s the wrong approach against the Steelers’ front seven.

The Steelers pounced, and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was under fire the entire second half. The Steelers sacked him four times, but they pressured him more often into throwing quicker than he wanted. The speed of the Steelers’ outside linebackers was evident. Dalton’s frustration was clear, waving the white flag and throwing the ball away on a fourth-down play late in the game.

Vontaze Burfict is an idiot.

For all else that's been so miserable about Marvin Lewis' miscreant Bengals for so long, he still somehow finds a way to sink below the lowest of sub-human standards.

That's Burfict going at Roosevelt Nix. Right in the skillet. After the whistle. Second snap from scrimmage, first mental snap for the idiot.

Minutes before that, Burfict refused to shake hands at the coin toss, holding them behind his back like a bratty child.

And three hours later, Burfict again refused to shake hands at game's end, simply sprinting toward the visitors' tunnel at Heinz Field alongside injured fellow idiot Pacman Jones.

Winners will win, and losers will ... gently give back your lunch money and beg forgiveness?

"He was kind of quiet all game, to be honest with you," David DeCastro would tell me later regarding Burfict. You'll recall those two collided like bighorn sheep last December in Cincinnati. "He just came to play football."

Say what?

"No, really, he did."

But what about the kick?

"Ah, that was nothing. I'm telling you, he really wasn't a problem. None of them were. It was just a good football game, for once, and he wasn't really any different."

After a slight shake of the head, DeCastro added, "It was kind of weird, actually."