After being inactive for the six games of the 2014 season, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has played in the last two games and has scored three touchdowns. Because of the instant success inside the red zone that Bryant has had, several fans are wondering what took so long for him to finally see the field.
During a Wednesday interview with David Todd of ESPN 970, Haley was asked in a round about way if he regrets not using Bryant earlier in the season now that he’s seen him produce in the last two games.
“As far as we’re concerned, he got the opportunity when he showed he was ready for it,” said Haley. “Because there’s a great amount of trust that has to be put in those guys, starting with Ben [Roethlisberger], and that they’re going to be where they’re supposed to be. That they’re going to recognize sight adjusts, hots, route adjustments – those things. And he worked real hard when he was not getting a helmet on Sunday’s and continued to work and when the opportunity arose, he stepped in and has done a commendable job.”
Haley’s response is not surprising at all and many people seem to forget that Bryant was on the Steelers injury report for the first three weeks of the season with a shoulder injury that he suffered during the preseason finale.
In addition to being limited quite a bit early on in the season because of his shoulder injury, the Clemson product also missed two practices leading up to the Week 5 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an illness. It’s hard for a rookie to make up all of that lost practice time and that’s likely the reason why it took until Week 7 for him to dress for the first time.
Now that Bryant is seeing the field and producing inside the red zone, Haley thinks it will help open up the running game when the offense gets inside the opponent’s 20 yard-line.
“Any time that you’re finishing drives and you’re finishing them with some of the fades that you saw last week, I think that it will only help our run game,” said Haley. “That’s something we haven’t had. We hit one to A.B. [Antonio Brown], we hit one to him [Martavis], that up until this point, teams have kind of loaded the box and said ‘beat us outside.’ And if you don’t make the perfect throw or run the perfect route, you’ve got incompletions and you’re kicking field goals. I think it will just continue to open up what we can do both run and pass.”
In the Sunday win over the Indianapolis Colts, Bryant played 33 snaps. 27 of those snaps came when the Steelers had three wide receivers on the field and all 27 the two other wide receivers on the field were Antonio Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey. I would expect that we’ll see that particular grouping quite a bit moving forward until into the second half of the season.
For now, just be glad that Bryant is now dressing on a weekly basis and more importantly, be glad that he’s contributing. I’m pretty sure that we will see him score a few more touchdowns this season.