If you’re feeling down on the Pittsburgh Steelers after their overtime giveaway to the rival Ravens, I have good news: the Steelers are about to get one of their most lethal weapons back on the field.
Clemson’s Martavis Bryant was part of the showstopping 2014 class of wide receivers that included Odell Beckham Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin. One side effect of all that starpower is that Bryant flew under the radar for much of his rookie season.
Bryant suited up for Pittsburgh in only in ten games last year but he managed to reel in 26 catches for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. He also scored another in the playoff game against Baltimore. Thanks to his four game suspension which was lifted this week it’s been a while since we have seen what we can do.
Check out this highlight reel of Bryant’s rookie year, which will help jumpstart your memory:
You probably noticed a theme there. A large portion of Bryant’s production last season came on deep routes when he was wide open. With Antonio Brown commanding so much attention from defenses, Bryant was able to spring loose for huge gains again and again. In fact, Bryant led the NFL in yards per reception in 2014 with 21.1, per Pro Football Focus.
Bryant was also a reliable red zone target. At 6’4″ and 211 pounds, with a massive wingspan, he reminds me of a younger, slightly smaller Jimmy Graham with more speed and raw athleticism. Also like Graham, he excels at catching jump balls downfield even when he’s in traffic.
Ben Roethlisberger certainly has the arm to reach him in those situations, but the Steelers will have to go forward without him for at least a few more weeks as he recovers from his MCL sprain.
The question then is can Michael Vick step up and hit Bryant in stride on those vicious vertical routes?
If what we saw this pre-season is any indication, the answer is an absolute yes. Vick may not have the wheels he used to and 2004 was a long time ago, but in his short time with Pittsburgh in August Vick established a solid connection with Bryant.
This was the first pass that Vick threw in a Steelers uniform:
That was 63 yards for those of you who weren’t counting. Of course it’s easy to cherry pick one play and claim there’s a connection there, but the two hooked up for explosive plays several more times when they were on the field together that afternoon.
Bryant finished the game with 138 yars and a touchdown on just three targets.
If Vick and Bryant pick up where they left off, the Steelers offense may hardly miss a beat with Big Ben out.
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