Martavis Bryant is going to regret asking for a different role.
Because the way JuJu Smith-Schuster played in his absence, he may never get his old one back.
Smith-Schuster had a huge night in the Steelers’ 20-15 win over the Lions, and may have made Bryant’s role moot.
The rookie wide receiver finished with seven catches for 193 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown reception. Even without that one, he had six catches for 96 yards, which would have been a very good night for a secondary target.
But that kind of big-play potential is going to make the Steelers want to give the 20-year-old more chances.
That’s probably not what Bryant was looking for, after pouting about his lack of action. They made him inactive this week as punishment, and now it’s harder to argue why he should have more balls thrown his way. Given the way the Steelers have replaced wide receivers in the past (remember Mike Wallace?), it was a bad move by Bryant, poorly timed.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. The Lions actually did a good job on the guys you want to do a good job against when playing the Steelers.
The Steelers’ star running back finished with 76 yards on 25 carries, and their star wide receiver had five catches for 70 yards.
Bell didn’t have a carry longer than 8 yards, while a 40-yard reception by Brown clouded the reality of his night. He had four catches for 30 yards on his other eight targets.
Lions cornerback Darius Slay did a very good job for most of the night (at least until his disastrous pass interference penalty late), for what it was worth.
2. There were bigger names on display Sunday, but few of them have been as consistently good at Lions safety Glover Quin.
He had an interception and a forced fumble in the first half, as he continues to find himself around the ball.
The pick was his 19th since joining the Lions in 2013, the most in the league over that span. And the fumble recovery in the second quarter was the sixth turnover he’s had his hands on in seven games.
That’s not bad for a 31-year-old safety, who is playing much better in the second half of his career than he did in the first (the four years he spent in Houston with just five interceptions).
3. The result worked out. But it’s becoming clear that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is capable of looking fairly ordinary.
The 97-yard touchdown obscured some relatively pedestrian numbers, as Roethlisberger finished 17-of-31 for 317 yards.
A line of 16-of-30 for 220 yards and an interception wouldn’t have drawn anything but criticism on another night.
4. The Lions have enough late comebacks, it seems harsh to quibble with their strategy.
But deciding to go for a fourth-and-goal from the 1 while down 13-12, and then kicking a field goal moments later when down 20-15 seems curious.
Perhaps Jim Caldwell and Jim Bob Cooter just wanted to keep within a touchdown, and not run the risk of the disappointment of being stoned twice in a row at the goal line.
But it also shows an alarming lack of confidence in an offense which is so good for most of the field.
5. The Eric Ebron Era in Detroit might be coming to a close.
The former No. 10 overall pick had an early drop, and was booed heartily by the home crowd, which is tired of waiting for him to deliver on his potential.
When the Lions were driving late in the first half, they threw into the end zone twice to tight end Darren Fells, while Ebron was sitting on the bench.
The Lions picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, but it’s guaranteed only for injury. If they passed him along to someone else by Tuesday’s trade deadline, it’s hard to imagine many Lions fans being broken-hearted.
The fact that the next three players chosen have blossomed into major stars (Taylor Lewan, Odell Beckham Jr., and Aaron Donald) is just salt in the wound, as Ebron had 146 catches and eight touchdowns (entering the night) in his fourth season. He’s only caught more than one touchdown in one season (five in 2015), so perhaps someone will want to throw the Lions something to see if a change of scenery helps.
Perhaps his late grabs got the locals off his back, or perhaps it just polished up his value.