By just about any measure, it is safe to say that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had a successful rookie season in 2014, a year that exploded for him after he sat on the bench for the first six games of the regular season.
Bryant recently paid a visit to the Altoona Curve and threw out the first pitch before a game. During that time, he took the opportunity to talk to Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror about his first season and how the 2015 season is shaping up.
Bryant talked about his injury in the preseason, which contributed to his not seeing the field for the first several weeks of the season, but he also talked about how head coach Mike Tomlin told him prior to the Texans game that he would get his chance if he had a good week of practice.
Evidently he did, because that is the game that he made his debut, during which he caught his first of eight touchdowns during his rookie season. It was also the first of five touchdowns that he would catch in a three-game span. But it’s not a performance that surprised him.
I’m not the type to say I exceed my expectations because I don’t limit myself to anything because anybody can do anything at any point in time. So I just stayed focused, just kept working and learned from everybody. Once all of my success started coming, I knew what it took to make it keep coming. I just started working, stayed listening to AB (Antonio Brown), stayed listening to Coach (Todd) Haley, and I just stayed focused on the job I had to get done.
We did get the impression of Bryant even before he was drafted that, while he may still be raw on the field, he also seemed to possess the work ethic, desire, and determination to continually improve and to work on his game. That we hear him consistently in the ear of his coordinator and one of the best players in the game is, obviously, a good sign.
He’s also self-aware enough to understand why he had the success that he did early on, attributing it to, naturally, his size and speed, but also his preparation, and having Antonio Brown across from him giving the defense fits.
He speaks clearly about the influence that Brown’s on-field performance has on the rest of the offense as a whole. He also acknowledges his own role in the offense taking off later in the year once he stepped into the lineup, describing it as a pick your poison scenario.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview is Bryant discussing the way that he watched defenses adjust to him throughout the course of the year, and identifying what he must work on to adjust going forward.
He says that early on, defenders were pressing him a lot at the line, but as he proved his assets, teams would play 10 yards off outside of the red zone. They sat on his routes, and we saw this result in an interception. In response, he said that he needs to work on his routes and break points to give the defender less of a clue about where the ball is going to be.
At the end of the day, Bryant just seems to have the right attitude, refraining from riding Tomlin’s proverbial emotional rollercoaster. He takes in stride the success that he had as a rookie while recognizing that there is so much more for him to do. He has the mental framework to become a truly great player, but it’s up to him to physically accomplish that goal.