It took Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant nearly half a season to get on the field during his rookie year, but once he was allowed to play, there’s no doubt that he made an impact. During a Wednesday forum interview with Steelers fans, offensive coordinator Todd Haley made it known that expects Bryant to challenge for the spot opposite Antonio Brown in 2015.
“We are looking for him to come in and make a push against Markus Wheaton for that No. 2 spot and continue give us big-time production, specifically in the red area where a big target like that can make a big impact,” Haley said, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
While Bryant did catch 26 passes for 549 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014, Markus Wheaton also made strides during his second season in the league as he registered 53 catches for 644 yards and two touchdowns. Haley, however, was quick to point out how things changed offensively once Bryant, who the Steelers drafted last year in the fourth-round out of Clemson, hit the field starting in Week 7.
“When young guys come in at the receiver position and contribute early like he did, it is a big thing,” Haley said. “He took a lot of pressure off Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton … he really had a big impact on our offense.”
Bryant not only showed that he can stretch the field during his rookie season, as evidenced by his 21.1 yards per reception average, he also began to make his mark as a red zone receiver by catching 4-of-9 nine passes thrown his way in that area of the field with all four catches resulting in touchdowns.
Bryant, however, will need to improve his production on third downs in his second season as he only caught 6-of-12 passes thrown his way when the offense needed to move the chains. The same, however, can be said about Wheaton, as he failed to crack the 60% reception mark on the 22 passes thrown his way in 2014 on third downs. Even so, Haley indicated Wednesday that he expects the Oregon State product and former third round draft pick to make another jump in his third season.
“From a developmental standpoint, I have always been taught and believe that year three is the most important in a guy’s development in what he’s going to be,” Haley said. “As this year progresses we will have a real good idea of where Markus is and are all excited where he is going. We were excited with what we did but are probably more excited of what we are capable of doing.”
While Haley sounds excited about his two young wide receivers heading into 2015, you can only imagine how quarterback Ben Roethisberger probably feels right now. Roethlisberger had arguably the best season of his long career in 2014 and now with Wheaton and Bryant expected to progress even more in 2015, he very well could be on tap for an even better one.