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Ben Roethlisberger stands by decision to call out Martavis Bryant

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Ben Roethlisberger came out Wednesday defending his decision to call out Martavis Bryant in the media, during which he essentially told the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver to “toughen up.”

With the Steelers set to battle the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday, Roethlisberger downplayed any notion that his critical comments has led to any issues between himself and Bryant.

“We talked yesterday,” Roethlisberger said on Wednesday morning, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I feel like we need him. I love that guy like a little brother. I just wanted him to know that we needed him to step up. It was nothing more than a challenge.”

Roethlisberger’s challenging comments Tuesday came on the heels of him calling out Bryant publicly a week beforehand. And the critique of the second-year wide receiver came in the midst of underwhelming performances from Bryant in Pittsburgh’s final two games of the season, a loss to the Ravens and a win over the Browns in the season finale.

In those two games, Bryant had two catches on six targets for only six yards and couldn’t come down with a catch on a critical third down play on the final drive against the Ravens.

Roethlisberger indicated that Bryant understood where he was coming from during their discussion on Tuesday. And the Steelers savvy signal-caller indicated the young wideout can help out tremendously in helping the team deal with the Bengals’ defensive scheme.

“Whether him going deep or him doing underneath stuff (he can help),” he said. “That is where he is striving to get better is his route running, his underneath routes to beat the deep coverage and catching the ball. He is a special player with the ball in his hands. A 3- or 4-yard pass can turn into a 70- or 80-yarder because he is quick.”

Roethlisberger of course is an unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh’s locker room, so whatever he says will be taken seriously. It remains to be seen, though, if pushing Bryant’s buttons in such a public manner will ultimately prove to be an effective motivational tool.