Big Ben says he's disappointed to lose Martavis Bryant

Martavis Bryant's unique combination of size, speed and freakish athleticism prompted Ben Roethlisberger to suggest in January that it was time for the Steelers wide receiver to "become the best in the world."

Two months later, Bryant's prodigious 2016 potential was obliterated by a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Roethlisberger acknowledged this week that he is disappointed to lose the dynamic young receiver.

"I reached out to him a lot when it came to the off-the-field stuff the first time around," Roethlisberger said Tuesday, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It was very disappointing, and we will miss him."

Roethlisberger's comments are in the same vein as the pep talk intended to toughen Bryant up late last season.

The Steelers have averaged 29 points per game with Bryant in the lineup versus 22 with him on the sideline over the past two years. In more stark terms, Pittsburgh has scored at least 30 points in 52.3 percent of games with Bryant and just 27.3 without him.

"He was a big weapon for us, obviously," Roethlisberger explained. "He is one of the best and had a chance to be one of the best in the NFL. He was growing and getting better. It hurts."

Roethlisberger insists the goal remains 30 points per game, a milestone that just 29 teams in NFL history have reached.

With All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell and four-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey returning to add juice to the offense, it's not unrealistic to believe Roethlisberger will direct an explosive attack that beats last year's average of 26.4 points per game.

"I think the sky is the limit for our offense, regardless," Bell told NFL Media's R&B Podcast in March. "... I think the fact that we have all of that depth and we have playmakers everywhere, I think our offense is still going to be just as dynamic."

For that to happen, second-year receiver Sammie Coates will have to pull off a convincing Bryant impression this season.

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