End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Martavis Bryant
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 1 Year
After the Steelers took a couple of hits at wide receiver during free agency, they were widely expected to address the position during the draft. Because of the uncanny depth at the position, however, they were able to wait until the fourth round before a wide receiver’s name was finally called for Pittsburgh.
That receiver was Martavis Bryant, a 6’4” speedster who was overshadowed in college by his star teammates, but who showed great raw potential. We saw that potential come to life between Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger often during the rookie’s first year here.
The Steelers tried to insulate themselves by signing veteran Lance Moore, with the hope that they wouldn’t have to put Bryant out on the field before he was ready to do so. It wasn’t until the seventh game of the season that he was finally activated, and he made an immediate impact with a 35-yard touchdown that showed off his speed.
Over the course of the next two games, he added four more touchdowns, and added another three—including one of 80 yards and another of 94 yards—to finish off the regular season. He was the only Steeler to record a touchdown in the team’s Wildcard round loss.
In all, Bryant caught nine touchdown passes in 11 games. For the regular season, he caught 26 passes for 549 yards and led all qualified receivers by averaging 21.1 yards per reception. Those numbers certainly go well beyond what could have been reasonably expected out of him in his first year.
Most important is the fact that he showed steady progress throughout the year in terms of picking up the offense and honing the finer points of his craft, including running his routes and generally playing without the ball in his hands.
That bodes well for the future, and he figures to be the favorite at the moment to take over the starting outside wide receiver spot from Markus Wheaton in his second year as long as he continues to progress and fully grasps the finer points of the offense. It only took about a decade, but the Steelers may have finally found Roethlisberger the tall wide receiver he’s been looking for.