BOCA RATON, Florida. -- Coach Mike Tomlin's advice for suspended Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant was brief and to the point during Tuesday's AFC coaches breakfast.
"I want to see him get better as a man," Tomlin said. "Football and all the things associated with that are secondary."
Bryant's absence from the lineup strips Pittsburgh of an electrifying playmaker who piled up 17 total touchdowns over the past two seasons. The Steelers will miss his red-zone prowess, but Tomlin views the loss as an opportunity for someone else to emerge.
Per Tomlin, the Steelers are preparing for an open competition between Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates for the role of Pittsburgh's No. 2 receiver across from All-Pro Antonio Brown.
"Everybody's got a chance to compete for that job," Tomlin said.
Wheaton feels like the clear-cut front-runner, but Pittsburgh's coach wasn't shy about suggesting that second-year wideout Sammie Coates was a candidate to break out in 2016.
"I'm excited about where he is," Tomlin said of Coates. "He worked hard last year, really saw improvement over the course of the season. I think it's reasonable to expect a guy in his second year to make a quantum leap. It's his second lap around the track and he knows what he's getting into and I look forward to watching the natural progression associated with that."
There's also hope at tight end, where the retired Heath Miller has been replaced by former Chargers pass-catcher Ladarius Green. As we've mentioned on the Around The NFL Podcast, we view the Green signing as one free agency's savviest moves.
"We liked his skill set, we've (always) liked his skill set. We liked him when he came out of Louisiana at Lafayette," Tomlin said. "It's been fun to kind of see his progress from afar. We still believe that he's a guy that has some room for improvement -- and that's exciting. He's got a nice combination of youth and experience and we're excited about infusing that into our offense."
Losing Bryant hurts plenty, but last year's Steelers were among the league's most resilient teams. Despite a swath of lost starts by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and Brown, Pittsburgh still made the playoffs. We expect them to do the same in 2016.