It may have taken a while for him to get on the field, spending the first six games of his professional career on the inactive list, but rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has most certainly had an impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.
In seven career games, Bryant rests comfortably in second on the team in terms of receiving touchdowns with seven, behind only Antonio Brown’s 11. Two players are tied for third with three receiving touchdowns.
His impact, perhaps, is reminiscent of another rookie wide receiver in recent years, Mike Wallace during the 2009 season.
That season, Wallace played in all 16 games, finding an immediate impact from game one as part of the rotation behind the starting outside receivers. Over the course of the season, he caught 39 passes for 756 yards with six touchdowns.
He caught 14 passes for 20 or more yards, and six for 40 or more, leading all qualified receivers with a yards per catch average of 19.4.
In his seven games played this season, Bryant has 21 receptions for 453 yards and seven touchdowns, with six catches of 20 or more yards and four of 40 yards or more. He, too, leads all qualifying receivers in yards per catch, averaging an impressive 21.6 after his 94-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ last game.
Like Wallace, unsurprisingly, a large percentage of Bryant’s targets during his rookie season have been of a vertical nature. 27 of Wallace’s 71 targets, or 38 percent, came at least 20 yards down the field. He caught 12 of them, dropping two, while scoring all six of his touchdowns on such routes.
Similarly, 38.5 percent of Bryant’s targets, or 15 of 39, have come 20 yards or more down the field. He has caught six of them, with none of them being dropped, converting four of them into touchdowns.
The two, of course, shared some commonalities coming into the league. They both possessed raw talent and deep speed, and the Steelers offense managed to harness the assets of both in their first seasons without being forced to fully polish their craft. The production from Bryant has indeed been impressive, and more than anticipated in his first year.
Of course, both players had their limitations, including their fair share of drops. Both ran a limited route tree, which resulted in defenses being able to match up to them for the majority of the game. That is why, for example, Wallace only caught more than three passes in a game twice during his first year.
It’s also worth pointing out how boom or bust was their impact. For Bryant’s case, for example, a full 67.5 percent of his total yardage on the season was gained on just five plays. About half of Wallace’s yardage total came on eight receptions that went for 30+ yards.
Wallace, of course, developed into a nice player in his time in Pittsburgh, though he never fully rounded out his game and overstayed his welcome before cashing out in free agency. Let’s hope Bryant’s path over the next few years is less turbulent.