ARLINGTON, Texas -Things looked bleak for Dez Bryant on the Monday after the Cowboys' victory over the Bengals when it was announced that he had a fractured index finger. Surgery looked like a strong possibility and it seemed hard to imagine that the receiver would be able to suit up and play just seven days after such a painful injury.
But as the week went on, it became more and more apparent that Bryant was going to do everything in his power to delay surgery and take the field against the Steelers, and that's exactly what he did.
Bryant was a non-factor in the first quarter. It was unclear how much pain he was in and if the Cowboys were partially using the playmaker as a decoy. It wasn't until midway through the second quarter when Bryant made his first reception of the game, a 15-yard play. He talked about getting into a comfort zone and trusting his injured finger after that first catch.
"(The finger) felt way better than I thought," Bryant said. "It took the first catch and then after that I felt the ball, you know, with that velocity in the game. I felt like 'oh, I got it.' I got it throughout the game."
And from there, it became clear that Bryant was the same receiver that had exceled in the previous five outings.
"I felt like Dez," Bryant confirmed with a smile. "Just by stepping on the field, I felt like Dez."
Bryant finished the game with four receptions for 59 yards, including a 24-yad touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Cowboys a 17-10 lead.
According to Bryant, pain was not a factor.
"To be honest, I didn't really think about it," Bryant said. "I can't tell you how much pain I felt. I don't think I felt any pain really. I was so focused on the game. Right now I don't feel pain at all."
Bryant was clear from early on in the week that he wanted to play in the game and that if it were remotely possible he would be suited up and on the field. While he downplayed the significance of his toughness, Bryant did say that various teammates expressed to him how motivated they were by his commitment.
"Before the game and during the week Miles [Austin], Tony [Romo], [Jason] Witten, Coach [Jason] Garrett, Mr. [Jerry] Jones, they told me 'thank you,'" Bryant said. "And they said, 'everyone is inspired by you coming out and playing.'"
Witten confirmed those sentiments about Bryant and talked after the game about what he saw from the receiver against Pittsburgh.
"I'm proud of him tonight," Witten said. "Not only fighting through the injury – that's not easy to do, playing with a broken finger at receiver – but also being able to play without practicing in the week and knowing his assignments. I'm proud of him. He really stepped up. He's like a little brother. … He's a big-time player and I think he showed it tonight."
Bryant has now gone six straight games scoring a touchdown and recorded his 10th of the season. Bryant credits his hot play of late to his growing relationship with Romo.
"Tony just trusts me," Bryant said. "He trusts me more and more. That's all it is."
Despite Bryant's insistence that his finger is fine and that he is not in pain, Jones talked about the injury following the game and actually suggested that the severity of the problem would lead to an unusual procedure.
"We want to be clear about this, Dez is going to more than likely have some bone taken off his hip and put into that index finger-joint," Jones said. "It is a fracture, but it's not a ligament. Make no mistake about it, it has an injury and it's a serious injury. He certainly is playing with some risk. He was inspirational out there."
Jones was asked to confirm whether or not he was talking about Bryant needing a bone graph.
"Ultimately it's more than likely," Jones said. "I don't want to be the doctor, but ultimately, I'm told he will need a bone graph."
Strangely enough, when Bryant was asked about Jones comment he said that he thought Jones was kidding.
"Nobody told me that," Bryant said. "Nobody touching my hip."
While the contradicting claims about a bone graph remain a mystery, Bryant did make one proclamation a week ahead of time.
"I'm strapping up and I'm playing New Orleans," Bryant said. "I'm getting that out there right now. I'm playing New Orleans. We're just going to be careful with it throughout the week and I'll be ready for the game."