PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger is riding with Darrius Heyward-Bey as a solution to offset the loss of suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant, even if that means a lesser role for rookie Sammie Coates.
When asked whether Bryant's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy will increase Coates' role, Roethlisberger replied that he foresees "a bigger role for Darrius Heyward-Bey."
Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft, has one year of 700-plus receiving yards in seven NFL seasons and has become known for his costly drops. But he'll have his chances for the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the season.
Heyward-Bey told ESPN in August that he re-signed with Pittsburgh, where he caught three passes a year ago, because coach Mike Tomlin told him he would "have an opportunity to do a lot, and I'd rather be a guy who can do a lot than a guy who can do a little."
Roethlisberger said he knew Bryant's suspension was coming, so he's been working overtime with Heyward-Bey, who had a productive training camp.
"He's been playing with a lot of confidence, and we have confidence in him," Roethlisberger said. "I think he'll step up and be just fine."
The early-season losses of Bryant, star running back Le'Veon Bell (two-game suspension) and center Maurkice Pouncey (broken fibula) take a bite out of the Steelers' offense, but "that means the rest of us have to step up," Roethlisberger said.
It is not certain whether that plan involves Coates, a third-round draft pick who has shown flashes of potential in the preseason but struggled at times in camp.