In the wake of trade rumors, media members immediately sought out wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the Steelers locker room on Monday afternoon.
As the group moved toward his stall, laughter and jokes from his teammates followed behind.
After the Steelers’ 19-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, a report surfaced from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Bryant wasn’t happy in Pittsburgh and had recently requested a trade. The report also said Bryant’s teammates and coaches said he was unhappy.
On Monday, Bryant denied the report, saying he hadn’t requested a trade.
“No, I’m good, man,” Bryant said. “Good to go. Play ball, play this year out strong, finish strong and move forward.”
He also said he didn’t know where the report came from.
“I can’t worry about that,” he said. “I just got to enjoy what I’m doing here, focus on the now. I’m in Pittsburgh, I’m playing here and that’s all I can focus on.”
Bryant also tweeted after Rapoport’s report surfaced on Sunday night. He was targeted three times and finished with two receptions for 27 yards in the win over the Chiefs.
In his first two years in the league, Bryant had 15 touchdowns in 21 games. This year, Bryant 15 catches for 204 yards and a touchdown on 31 targets. Bryant’s best game was a 91-yard, one touchdown performance against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is putting together an impressive rookie season and cutting into some of Bryant’s targets. He has 15 catches 192 yards and two touchdowns on 23 targets.
Some of Bryant’s teammates, most notably Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, have talked about wanting the ball more in recent weeks. Bryant said he’s not taking that route.
“I ain’t complaining,” Bryant said. “I know my potential. I know what I can do. The little bit or whatever I get, I have to make the best of it. Everything else is out of my control.”
As for Bryant’s teammates, they spent the afternoon laughing off the rumor. Maurkice Pouncey said the players were joking about it the whole trip home from Kansas City.
When asked if the rumors were frustrating for a team that has dealt with plenty of drama this season, Ramon Foster pretended not to have heard of the report.
“Not frustrating at all,” Foster said. “Not even a little. I thought it was something he wanted to be trade to the [Cleveland Cavaliers] or something like that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
“I saw the reports. I thought he was talking about for basketball. I think he wanted to switch sports.”
The joke that Bryant wanted to switch to basketball and play for the Golden State Warriors was a consistent joke throughout the locker room. Foster also joked that he wanted to switch to hockey, if he could learn how to skate within the next week.
But after the joking died down, Foster offered a more serious take on the most recent distraction.
There has been plenty of off the field drama following the Steelers this season, including the team not emerging for the national anthem, Antonio Brown’s sideline tantrum and Ben Roethlisberger saying he might not have it anymore after the loss to Jacksonville.
“I’m saying this because we’re not going to feed into that anymore,” Foster said. “That’s over. We crushed that. That’s done. That’s how I feel about this locker room.”
Cameron Heyward, too, made light of the trade reports, offering to start doing cartwheels to provide the next non-football story.
“That’s not anything you can control for the most part,” Heyward said of the report about Bryant. “People will talk. What’s in house stays in house. We worry about what we can control. We move on from there and just worry about our business.”