"If you let another man's comments affect your work, you probably shouldn't play football," he said.
No words more aptly describe why JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant are flourishing together less than three months after Bryant blasted the rookie on Instagram as being "nowhere near" better than him.
Bryant desiring a trade while ripping a fellow receiver seemed a textbook recipe for dysfunction. Now, Bryant and Smith-Schuster are celebrating touchdowns together while letting competition speak for them.
Turns out Smith-Schuster passed the test by being strictly "about his business" on the field instead of Bryant's comments, Heyward-Bey said.
What Bryant says now about his teammate -- who has 636 yards in the seven games since the Oct. 23 comment -- echoes synergy between the two. "He should be Rookie of the Year," Bryant said. "I don’t know if he’s going to be. He had a great year, man. He’s competing with the dude from New Orleans [Alvin Kamara]. Out of those two guys, they deserve it."
Smith-Schuster is not nominated for Rookie of the Year despite posting 917 receiving yards, a franchise rookie record. But he and Bryant might just spark Pittsburgh's Super Bowl run. The two averaged 172 yards per game over the final three weeks of the regular season as Antonio Brown nursed a calf contusion. They also recorded three receiving touchdowns during that span.
Bryant was held to fewer than 50 yards in all but one of his first 12 games, but he's produced at least 59 yards in each of the past three. Once rankled by his limited role in the offense, Bryant is more of a priority now and looks more comfortable.
Smith-Schuster said his motivation was not to prove Bryant wrong but simply to help the team. After the Instagram comment, Smith-Schuster told reporters he understood Bryant's perspective because "there's only one football." Now the two are finding creative ways to share it.
"We all just said we all have to take [Brown's] plate and eat off it," Smith-Schuster said. "It’s fun [right now]. You can’t complain. At the end of the day it’s football, and we've gotten closer. We’re all trying to get that one goal."
Even Brown is impressed, calling Bryant and Smith-Schuster "really dynamic" over the past month.
Bryant said he never discussed his comments with Smith-Schuster but insists the two have always been cool. Teammates viewed Bryant's words as frustration more than a personal attack.
Bryant explains it like this: "Guys want what they deserve." Bryant recovered on his own from a drug dependency and a year-long suspension and felt he worked his way back into a prominent role.
"There wasn’t nothing for us to get overly mad about -- it wasn’t nothing like that," Bryant said. "Probably fans made it seem like that, but it wasn’t that. ... You’re supposed to think you’re better than each other. Why play the game if you don’t think that? You want to compete. As long as I’m being competitive, I’m happy."
And happy to help Smith-Schuster with his touchdown celebrations. After Bryant's nifty one-handed, 4-yard touchdown in Week 15 against New England, Smith-Schuster ordered Bryant to fall to the ground while the rookie revisited his stand-over taunt of Vontaze Burfict, which had resulted in a Week 14 suspension.
As long as the two are in the end zone, Bryant is happy to oblige.
"[The ideas] just pop up in his head -- he has a crazy imagination," Bryant said. "We just go out and do what we want to do."