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Steelers News: Terrell Watson shoulders blame for Steelers’ short-yardage failures

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The Steelers have struggled in short-yardage situations, and the ‘Nightmare’ is taking those failures personally as the team’s short-yardage specialist.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Terrell Watson knows he has one job.

“And I take it very personally,” the Steelers running back said Monday. “Very seriously.”

Watson had performed his duties this season quite well, too—until Sunday.

The Steelers' short-yardage specialist, Watson was stopped on 4th-and-1 on the first play of the fourth quarter against Cincinnati. Officials initially credited Watson with a first down but overturned the call after the Bengals challenged the ruling.

“It kind of got to me a little bit,” Watson said. “But things happen.

“I've got to make it where you can't challenge it and it's (indisputable).”

That particular play wasn't the only one on which the Steelers had short-yardage issues, but it was the only one for which Watson can shoulder any blame because it was his only carry — the Steelers chose to have Le'Veon Bell on the field for two of their three 3rd-and-1 snaps.

Bell's lone carry in that situation lost four yards. On the other two occasions, the Steelers threw long passes to Antonio Brown. Both were incomplete.

The 0-for-4 performance on 3rd- or 4th-and-1 plays ruined what had been a 4-for-5 start to the season on such occasions. And it was the first time in four such plays where Watson was unsuccessful.

“I have to move my feet more,” Watson said. “Gotta get it. Gotta do my job, you know? Disappointed, yeah. But it just lights a fire under me, and I'm not going to be denied. Get back to work this week and do it all over again.”

Martavis Bryant managed to do the unimaginable after the Cincinnati game, becoming a bigger target for Steelers fans than the volatile Vontaze Burfict.

Not only did the Steelers' receiver continue to criticize his role in the offense, he did so at the expense of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, and reiterated his request for a trade — this time via Instagram.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is right in his assertion Bryant “was out of bounds” with both his message and his method.

“It's OK to want more playing time and to want to be a central reason why we're successful, provided you relay that in an appropriate way,” Tomlin said. “Social media is not an appropriate way.”

But Bryant is right about this much: The Steelers are wasting his talent.

Now, I'm not supporting the public pouting of a player who twice was suspended by the NFL for violating its substance-abuse policy and made negative headlines in the wake of the team's two biggest victories.

But Bryant is the type of target Ben Roethlisberger begged for, a tall target with breakaway speed. Only the second player in NFL history to score two touchdowns of at least 88 yards in his first two seasons.

And the Steelers aren't taking advantage of his big-play ability, targeting Bryant only five times with passes in the past two games and putting him on pace for career-low receiving averages.

As a rookie, Bryant set an NFL record for most receiving touchdowns in a player's first four games, with six, and the Steelers' record for touchdowns (14) in his first 16 regular-season games.

This season, Bryant has only 18 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown. He had one catch for three yards against the Bengals, a team he tortured for 21 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns in three previous regular-season games. That's not counting his circus catch-and-flip touchdown in the 2015 AFC wild-card game.

“It's irrelevant whether or not his gripe is legitimate,” Tomlin said. “The means he's going about it is inappropriate. It creates situations like this, where I'm wasting time out of my day fielding questions from (the media). That's why it's an issue.”

Speaking of social media, Bryant isn't a malingerer, as some media members suggested. Comparisons to Limas Sweed — a second-round bust who had 20 catches in two seasons with the Steelers — are simply absurd.

Tomlin acknowledged Bryant has “worked diligently” and had a strong week of practice. Roethlisberger said Bryant is “putting forth the effort.”

“I know it seems crazy, and you guys might be rolling your eyes,” Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 FM, “but he is a good teammate.”

Welcome to another week of the Ben Roethlisberger Radio Transcript Show. Last we left our co-host, he was talking largely about Martavis Bryant — how he didn’t want to go anywhere, how reactions to his reported trade request were “unnecessary drama,” etc.

That didn’t age well; Bryant, after an unproductive game and Sunday night Instagram mini-meltdown, reiterated on Monday morning that he’s unhappy and expects to leave town at some point.

So, believe it or not, that all came up again on Roethlisberger’s weekly radio show with 93.7 The Fan’s Ron Cook and Andrew Fillipponi. Roethlisberger, in short, said he believes in Bryant, has no problem with his effort level and wants to help him as much as possible. He’s got some advice.

“‘Come talk to your quarterback,’” Roethlisberger said. “We had a really long conversation through texts messages and things like that, and that’s when I told him, he was telling me about his frustrations and whatever. And he told me that he’d talked to the coaches or whatever.

“I said, ‘Tay, the one thing you haven’t done is talk to me. Come talk to me. How can I help you? Let’s figure out a way, a game plan that me as a quarterback, I can talk to you. I can help you. I can talk through maybe an issue you have.’ Whatever it might be, let’s figure this thing out together because he really is a good teammate. I know it seems crazy and you guys might be rolling your eyes, but he is. He’s a good teammate. He’s just — we’ve got to talk and figure this thing out.”

After Bell was penalized for excessive celebration against Kansas City, he said he was unaware he couldn't use the goalpost as a prop. Tomlin said the Steelers “revisited” the NFL's relaxed celebration rules.

“For those that celebrate, it's important that they err and err on the side of caution, if necessary,” he said.

The Steelers had one of the most publicized celebrations Sunday when Smith-Schuster and Bell played hide-and-seek.

“I have no problems with the celebrations, and JuJu is cute and all of that provided it doesn't cost our football team,” Tomlin said. “I think they are doing the necessary research to make sure they are within the lines.”