The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to get a boost out of two of their rookie draft picks on Monday, neither of whom have yet dressed for a game.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday during his press conference that he was looking at 6’4” wide receiver Martavis Bryant as a possible option against the Houston Texans in the red zone, where the Steelers have struggled.
The team currently ranks 31st in the league in red zone efficiency, having netted just one touchdown in seven opportunities within the twenty-yard line over the last two games.
Ben Roethlisberger said that he believes tight ends can help in that area, and two of his three touchdown passes not caught by Antonio Brown have been caught by tight ends.
Bryant’s athleticism and skill set, however, make him a valuable possible red zone target, and given the team’s struggles in that area, it may force the Steelers to try him as an option to see if that helps fix the problem.
It’s not as though the Steelers don’t have other tall wide receivers, of course. Darrius Heyward-Bey is 6’2” and Justin Brown is 6’3”. Neither of them, however, have put on the shows that Bryant had in the end zone during the summer.
If Byrant does get some playing time, it will obviously not be a cure-all solution, by any means. Nevertheless, it will be good to see him get on the field in a game to see what he can do for this offense.
On defense, meanwhile, the Steelers have already learned that they will be without the services of Steve McLendon at nose tackle when they host the Texans on Monday.
That likely means that Cam Thomas will start at nose tackle, but it also means there’s a very serious chance of Daniel McCullers seeing his first game day helmet after being in street clothes for the first six games.
That move, however, has little to do with seeing what the rookie can do, and everything to do with simply needing big bodies up the middle.
The Steelers, incredibly, were reduced playing Cameron Heyward at nose tackle by the end of last game, though it may be unlikely to assume the Steelers would be willing to allow him to play a full game there.
McCullers certainly shouldn’t be looked upon as a problem solver, however, any more than Bryant. While he may be gigantic, he is still quite raw, and his size will be neutralized by the Texans’ zone running scheme anyway.
In order for him to succeed on Monday, he must play with technique and with sound scheme. If he does that, he could potentially open the door for himself to see more playing time later.
In the meantime, fellow rookie Stephon Tuitt could be in for the first start of his career if Brett Keisel can’t go or is expected to be limited. His playing time may gradually increase from here on out.