Some day the Pittsburgh Steelers will have the team they expected to have on the field all at the same time. Unfortunately, that time is not quite yet. While we continue Big Ben Watch ’15, another important player makes his long awaited return on Monday night when wide receiver Martavis Bryant returns to the Steelers after serving his four game suspension. Hopefully it’ll be his last.
Bryant was a revelation last season. Lost in last year’s offensive explosion was the fact the Steelers struggled the first month of the season. Once Bryant was inserted in the line-up, however, there was no looking back. Which is not to say a team with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown wouldn’t have figured it out eventually. There’s just too much talent there. Still, there’s no denying that once Bryant started seeing regular playing time, the offense made a giant leap forward.
Bryant brings a unique skill set for sure. He’s a big guy (6’4) who is also the team’s best deep threat. That size also makes him lethal in the end zone as evidenced by his catching 6 TDs in his first 4 games upon being activated. Bryant tailed off a bit as the season progressed – and coordinators began scheming for him – but having the 1-2 punch of him and AB on the field makes an already potent passing game almost ridiculous.
The Steelers receiving corps has been less than stellar in his absence. AB is a machine – aside from dropping that sure TD in the Ravens game – although he’s more of a catch and run type of guy. Bryant is the Black and Gold’s first bonafide field stretcher since the glory days of Mike Wallace. They drafted Markus Wheaton ostensibly to fill that void but it’s hard to see his tenure as anything except disappointing. He’s been a non-factor this season and even though I think he’s playing hurt it’s hard to excuse his continual lack of production. Darrius Heyward-Bey has stepped up since his own costly end zone brainfart against New England although he’s more of a nice veteran slot guy than a starter.
Last week, rookie Sammie Coates had balls thrown his way because our receiving corps is so thin. Wheaton is hurting and Heath Miller is just not what he used to be. That left us with AB and DHB during crunch time. So while I expect a bit of rust, Bryant’s return really couldn’t come at a better time. Especially since he seems to have rapport with Micheal Vick, catching a 63 yard bomb from him in their first preseason game together.
Bryant has all the talent in the world so let’s hope he’s sincere when he says he’s committed himself to putting his drug issues behind him. Besides moving his family in with him, he also spent time with a drug counselor down in Houston during his suspension. The fact he’s been popped so many times he triggered an automatic 4 game ban is a clear sign that the young man had a serious problem. Hopefully those problems are being dealt with as he looks become a problem for opposing defenses. Until Ben comes back, we’re going to need all the help we can get.