Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant recorded his sixth touchdown in four games very late against the New York Jets on Sunday. It was his third receptions that went for at least forty yards (his second came earlier in the game), and his first touchdown from such distance.
As a matter of fact, it was the Steelers’ longest passing play of the season at 80 yards, and just a yard shy of Le’Veon Bell’s 81-yard run from the third game of the season. Though he’s only been active for a few games, his name is starting to pop up with some frequency on the list of the team’s longest plays of the year.
It may not surprise you to learn, then, that the Steelers have been active in targeting him down the field. After all, a tall vertical threat was something that has been on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s wish list for a decade.
11 of Bryant’s 25 targets have come 20 yards down the field or more. It’s taken some time for that connection to come together, but Bryant and Roethlisberger have completed five of those passes, or all of them that were fairly catchable. Three of them have gone for touchdowns.
Four of those 11 deep throws came against the Jets, all in the second half. That netted two completions that went for 45 and 80 yards. This is not one of those two.
With three receivers on the field, Bryant lined up outside the numbers on the far, right side of the formation from the 26-yard line. With the pocket collapsing, Roethlisberger uncorked a pass, but it was too far underthrown, by the time Bryant turned around for the ball, for him to come back and get it. As we would see later on, it was a learning experience.
Two plays later, Roethlisberger missed again, as two of three incompletions in a three and out were deep balls to the 6’4” rookie. This time, Bryant lined up in the slot on the right side, crossing through the middle of the field to the far hash marks. But the quarterback was under pressure and had to get rid of the ball, which came toward the middle of the field and clearly not where Bryant was expecting it to be.
The Jets responded to that stand with a field goal drive. The Steelers responded to that with a false start to begin their next possession. But when Roethlisberger looked deep to Bryant again (for the third time in four attempts), and this time he was able to hold up and come back to the ball, jumping in front of the defender for a 45-yard completion.
With the game already largely in hand, Roethlisberger knew that the Steelers needed to score immediately. So why not throw to the fastest tall man on the roster?
Lined up on the far right, Bryant was able to run up to the cornerback just enough to turn him outside before looping to the middle of the field, following his quarterback as he fled the pocket to his left. He was able to run under it, untouched, for the easy touchdown.