The tears came easily for Dez Bryant in the end zone and afterward in the locker room. Bryant’s heavy heart spoke for him as the Dallas Cowboys’ receiver mourned the death of his father.
MacArthur Hatton passed away Saturday from an illness.
“I think the game gives him peace,” quarterback Dak Prescott said of Bryant. Prescott’s mother died in November 2013. “We kind of shared this morning about the things I have been through. I kind of let him know this game brings you peace and use it that way.
“Your father, he is watching. He’s got the best seat in the house, and I told him to go out there and honor him today, and Dez did exactly that.”
Bryant finished with six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. It was his most yards since Nov. 9, 2014, when he caught six passes for 158 yards in a victory over Jacksonville in London.
It was Bryant’s 18th career 100-yard game, his third this season.
“He’s a fighter, man,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “Going through something tough like that and coming out here and still playing ball, it just says a lot about the guy he is. He did an exceptional job and he played for his dad tonight.”
The Cowboys trailed the Steelers 18-16 when Prescott found Bryant running past cornerback Artie Burns. Bryant juggled the pass but finally hauled it in for a 50-yard score, his longest touchdown since a 65-yarder against Washington on Dec. 28, 2014.
Bryant’s 62nd career touchdown tied him with tight end Jason Witten for third most in team history.
Bryant raised his index finger to the sky before kneeling down. His teammates, Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams first and then others, tried to comfort Bryant through his tears.
“Every person that’s a part of this team loves Dez,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “He’s one of the most loved players on this team. Everyone has a real appreciation, if you will, for his background. We all know that when you lose a parent, you’ve lost somebody who is irreplaceable. Nobody has your best interest at heart as much as a parent.
“We had a good visit before the game, and then I know he was pleased to go out and have a good game like he had in light of his dad looking down.”
The Cowboys honored Bryant with a game ball afterward. His teammates left Bryant alone with his thoughts as he sat in a chair, his head hung.
Bryant declined to comment.
“It’s what this team is all about,” Witten said. “I think when you’re able to let your guard down and treat it like a family, that’s when a team really comes close together, not just after wins, even after losses.
“This group is accountable to each other. They’re dependable. They pull for the other guy. They want to see him do well, so it’s just a good team.”