For as many head-turning plays he may make during practices, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant, at least so far, seems to more than make up for his raw talent with deficiencies elsewhere in his game.
This was on prominent display on Saturday night against the New York Giants, during which he dropped one key third-down pass that he could have caught, then proceeded to catch the fourth-down pass, only to allow the ball to get knocked out of his arms once he got back up to try to advance the ball.
Perhaps it was just some residual angst over his prized rookie’s shaky start to the preseason, but head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t sound overly pleased, nor in a complimentary mood, after practice yesterday when asked about his work that day.
He made a couple plays today but we know he’s capable of that. I’m looking for him to grow in all areas and have the type of detail in his work where we can rely upon him. Like a lot of young guys he’s moving toward that. Not at a quick enough pace for us, not at a quick enough pace for him, so we’ll continue to work.
This came after Bryant finished off a day of practice pulling in two impressive touchdowns in the final drill of the afternoon, which got plenty of attention from the Twittersphere and likely prompted the question being asked of Tomlin.
Was it just a bit of tough love? Maybe a message to the rookie, to let him know he’s far from having earned anything? Perhaps some genuine frustration relating to his slow development? It may be safe to assume it was likely a bit of everything.
Tomlin apparently wanted to see if the 6’4” wide receiver could contribute to the team’s cause on special teams on Saturday night, because he gave Bryant the opportunity to return punts in the second half, and with disappointing results.
Of the two punts that he fielded, he badly muffed the first one, but at least had the presence of mind and ability to fall on the ball to maintain possession. The other punt that he fielded didn’t exactly appear graceful, either. I don’t know how much more this special teams experiment will last, but it may already be over.
Going back to offense, it is worth mentioning that Bryant was able to draw two pass interference calls during the game. But he also displayed a tendency to body catch the ball rather than use his hands, as well as a seeming willingness to be satisfied with drawing a flag.
At this rate, I don’t anticipate that Bryant will carve out much of a role for himself on offense during his rookie season.
Sure, he’ll be sent out on a deep route here and there in addition to getting some looks in the red zone, but it certainly doesn’t sound as though Tomlin is very encouraged about the prospects of the rookie developing into a more trustworthy talent than that this year while presumably serving as the fifth, if not sixth wide receiver. He needs to rebound in a big way in the next game to creep out of the dog house.