Over a stomach virus, Martavis Bryant returned to practice at Steelers minicamp on Wednesday and gave himself mixed reviews for his performance.
On a back-shoulder fade pass from Ben Roethlisberger along the sideline, the big rookie wide receiver went up and over cornerback Antwon Blake for a sensational grap, only to drop the ball when he fell back to earth.
"C'mon, finish it Big Tone!" shouted Mike Tomlin.
Bryant did finish his next opportunity. The 6-4, 211-pounder flashed his 4.42 combine speed to run by Blake and then free safety Robert Golden to catch Landry Jones' deep pass for a touchdown. Tomlin erupted with a shout of "Big Tone" once again.
"Yeah," Bryant told the confused reporter. "Number 10."
Ah, yes, a bigger Santonio Holmes.
A much bigger Santonio Holmes.
"I wanted to make up for that last drop," Bryant said of his touchdown. "I just went in and just did what coach tells us to do on our go routes, and I just made a play."
Bryant, who describes himself as "a laid-back dude from the country," is big on listening to his coaches.
No explanation was necessary, of course, but he repeated several times that he's going to "continue to take my coaching."
At Clemson, Bryant said he and fellow receiver Sammy Watkins weren't pushed by a coaching staff that respected both of their big-play abilities. "We knew what we were doing so I didn't really get coached that hard," Bryant said.
But it's been different here with the Steelers.
"I get coached hard every day. Right or wrong, I get coached hard," he said. "I like it. I'll take my coaching and just learn from what I did wrong."
Bryant said that onlookers shouldn't take the fun that Tomlin has with his players during practice as a sign of weakness.
"Coach means business," Bryant said. "Even though he's out there laughing and smiling with everyone, he still goes out there and does his job. He coaches me hard every day. I get yelled at sometimes by him. I always come out of it good. He just wants me to do better."
Does Bryant, a fourth-round pick, see himself becoming a factor with the offense this season?
"What I see myself doing is coming in and helping the team," he said. "What else happens, I'll leave that in God's hands."
TOUCHDOWNS BOTH WAYS
Bryant's touchdown occurred on a day the Steelers worked specifically on deep passing. Unfortunately for Blake, the No. 4 cornerback, Bryant wasn't the only receiver to beat him. Antonio Brown also beat Blake to catch a deep Roethlisberger touchdown pass.
On the flip side, Cortez Allen intercepted a Roethlisberger overthrow and returned it for a touchdown. Linebacker Chris Carter returned an interception of a deflected Jones pass for a score. And linebacker Sean Spence rose up at his own 3-yard line to intercept and score on a Jones pass from his end zone.
Allen also intercepted Jones, while Ike Taylor made a spectacular interception of a Roethlisberger deep ball to Markus Wheaton, who gained a modicum of revenge with a sensational fingertip catch of a Roethlisberger deep pass over Allen.
LANDRY PACKING THE REPS
Jones has been getting most of the second-team reps ahead of Bruce Gradkowski this spring. But don't read anything into it, said quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner.
"Just trying to even up the reps," Fichtner said. "In my years of experience, you've got to give the other guy the opportunity to see where he would be if he's getting equal-type reps. We've also tried to rotate with the centers in mind so that we're working all the guys with all the centers."
In the first week of OTAs, Jones was involved with three fumbled exchanges from center. This week he's thrown several interceptions.
"There have been a couple loose balls," Fichtner said. "But overall, daily, I don't come off the field thinking 'we gave the game away today.' There's a lot of good stuff to learn from, and Coach (Dick) LeBeau's going to give you everything in the kitchen sink. You're getting everything. It's great work. It's great work for any young guy."
BIG STEVE ABSENT
The only player missing from Wednesday's practice was Steve McLendon, who was home with a stomach virus. He was replaced at nose tackle by Loni Fangupo, while rookie Daniel McCullers moved up to the second team.
"I've got to improve my reads," Fangupo said about his goal. "Learn the game more. I'm still way behind all these fellas with the game. Physically I feel I can play with the guys, but the mental part of the game -- such as reading formations, understanding why people do this and that, studying film better -- that's the part I need a lot of improvement on. I just asked one of the offensive line guys to watch film with me to learn why offenses do certain things."
Fangupo was asked about McCullers, the 6-7, 352-pound sixth-round pick.
"What can I say? He's b-i-i-i-g," Fangupo said. "I went head up with him today. I still have a headache. He's a big boy."
The only player sidelined for the complete practice Wednesday was rookie running back Dri Archer with a minor knee issue.
According to a source, the Steelers' training staff is taking an extra precautionary stance with injuries this spring.
THE JEANNETTE KID
Jordan Hall won a WPIAL championship at Jeannette High School with junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and both players ended up at Ohio State where Hall racked up over 2,000 all-purpose yards combined in his sophomore and junior seasons.
But Hall redshirted in 2012 with foot and knee injuries, and when he returned last season Carlos Hyde was firmly ensconced as the Buckeyes' starting running back.
Hall, a 5-9, 191-pounder, wasn't drafted, but he signed Wednesday with the Steelers. He was given No. 49 as he replaced the waived CB Deion Belue.
"I was in Florida at the time," said Hall. "I had like six or seven missed calls and then my mom called my girlfriend, who I was with, and she was on the phone going crazy, yelling "Why don't you answer the phone?' I looked at my phone and I missed calls from my agent and from here. They told me to get on the fastest flight back. I got here a little after midnight and checked into the hotel and had to come here at 6 in the morning. I'm a little tired but I'll go to work when practice comes."
Hall said he spoke with Pryor the previous day. "He said he likes it in Seattle and is doing pretty well."
As for losing the momentum of his underclass years at Ohio State, Hall said, "That was a funny situation," he said. "I can't even answer that."