The Pittsburgh Steelers have scored one touchdown in the red zone over the course of their last two games on seven trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.
While they already came into that span toward the bottom of the spectrum in terms of red zone efficiency around the league, they now rank 31st in that category.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the Steelers have struggled to score in general on the road, and four of their six games have come away from Heinz Field. In three of those four games, the offense has put up 10 points or less.
But regardless, the team is looking to fix their red zone woes, and they’re hoping their rookie wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, can be part of the answer.
The 6’4” former fourth-rounder had not even practice with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense since the preseason prior to this week, but the pair is looking to establish a rapport over the week’s practices with an eye toward getting him his first game day helmet of the season.
Bryant sat out the Steelers’ first six games because of his rawness as a receiver, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, his inability to contribute on special teams. Darrius Heyward-Bey has been dressing as the team’s fifth receiver.
But the veteran receiver has only one catch on the year for zero yards—although he also drew a long pass interference pass earlier in the season.
On Sunday, in addition, he was benched on special teams while attempting to fill in for the injured Shamarko Thomas, replaced by Ross Ventrone as a gunner on the punt team. Ventrone was just called up from the practice squad.
Bryant, in the meantime, seems on pace to get on the field for the Steelers on Monday night. Whether or not that will be at Heyward-Bey’s expense remains to be seen.
But it may well be the case that the two receivers are in a weekly battle for a game day helmet as the season progresses, especially considering it doesn’t seem to make much sense for a team that hardly uses four wide receivers to dress six.
With Ventrone now on the roster, Heyward-Bey’s special teams services have become less valuable, though that assumes he will stay on the roster even when Thomas returns.
But Bryant could be the Steelers’ best red zone target, or at least become one in time, and that alone could make him more valuable on game day than Heyward-Bey’s veteran presence and blocking ability.
Bryant has an opportunity to audition for a role for the rest of the season in this offense on Monday night. If he steps up to the plate, I see no reason why he can’t keep his place in the rotation as a weapon inside the 20 and as a deep threat, which is what he was already envisioned as in the first place.