Steelers: What’s next for Martavis Bryant?
By Tim Weaver
According to a power rankings list made by USA Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the second most likely team among those who have been eliminated from the playoffs to come back and win the Super Bowl next season.
It’s certainly not out of the question.
You can argue that Pittsburgh had a more difficult road than any other team in the NFL in 2015. Based on strength of schedule, they had the toughest regular season in football. They also had to battle through a number of injuries at important positions. Despite all that they made it to the divisional round of the playoffs.
The nail in the coffin may have come in the form of supervillain Vontaze Burfict, who took out Antonio Brown the previous week with a head shot, which will also force Brown to miss the Pro Bowl game. Burfict also injured LeVeon Bell earlier in the year.
To go all the way in 2016 the Steelers are going to need a little more luck, but more importantly they have to see improvement from a few key players. Chief among them is number two wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
While Bryant did make a series of jaw-dropping, highlight reel worthy touchdown catches, he also made more than his fair share of mistakes on the field.
The big problem he needs to fix is hanging onto the ball. According to SportingCharts.com, Bryant dropped 9.8 percent of the passes thrown his way this season. That was the worst mark for any NFL player with at least 50 receptions.
Another area of concern is Bryant’s route running. On too many occasions he appeared to be out of sync with Ben Roethlisberger, who seemed to expect him in one place when Bryant was in another. This led to several miscues that resulted in incompletions when the correct route may have led to a touchdown. Part of that may be due to rustiness, since Bryant missed the first four games of the season due to suspension. Still, that excuse is thin and will only go so far given his talent.
Even with his shortcomings it’s difficult not to be excited about Bryant’s future. On top of those incredible catches he’s becoming quite a threat in the run game as well. Matthew Marczi of Steelers Depot expects the Steelers to use Bryant more often in the ground game going forward.
Observe this touchdown run against the Seahawks. Bryant turns on the jets and is able to beat out All-Pros Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to the end zone:
That’s all you need to see to know that he can be a devastating weapon every time he touches the ball.
Bryant is perhaps the most athletically gifted player on Pittsburgh’s roster, and that’s really saying something.
Next: Will Sammie Coates' role expand?
There are very few receivers who have his combination of size, length and speed. If Bryant can stop dropping the ball and run routes the way Antonio Brown does he would have a chance to destroy a bunch of long-standing NFL receiving records.