With the Pittsburgh Steelers figuring to be without budding star wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the first four games of the 2015 regular season, it may be a bit worrying that nobody really stepped up in an effort to try to claim a roster spot for himself against the Bills.
Not that there was ample opportunity to do so, to be fair. The Steelers ran an exceptionally small number of offensive plays due to a combination of sustained drives allowed by the defense and a number of short drives on offense, due either to chunk plays or poor performance.
The player who did shine was Bryant himself, who logged the most time of all wide receivers throughout the game by a comfortable margin. He gained 138 yards on three receptions, including a touchdown and a healthy amount of yards after the catch. He was also successful in drawing a pair of pass interference calls.
With him slated to serve the first four games on the suspended list, that presumably leaves open a temporary roster spot for another wide receiver. Many were quick to jump on the Tyler Murphy bandwagon, who played well in the third preseason game, but was limited to one reception for four yards on two targets on Saturday.
Murphy saw just 13 snaps in the game, but even Sammie Coates saw just 14, the rookie third-round pick who actually spent his college career as a wide receiver, and not a quarterback. Coates did catch one pass for a two-point conversion, but his two targets on timed plays were incompletions, with one pass tipped at the line of scrimmage.
C.J. Goodwin and Shakim Phillips both saw less than 20 snaps themselves. Goodwin was targeted just once on a deep incompletion, though he registered a special teams tackle. Phillips caught his only target of the game for 16 yards on a third and eight play.
Everybody has been quick to rush out and place a wide receiver on the 53-man roster to fill Bryant’s spot, but the Steelers may well decide to carry only four wide receivers until the second-year player returns.
In fact, they may have no choice but to use that spot elsewhere.
If the injury to kicker Garrett Hartley is serious enough to cause him to miss a regular season game or two, the Steelers could be forced to carry two kickers on the 53-man roster, as they were forced to do a couple of seasons ago.
Hartley is a vested veteran and cannot simply be waived injured. He could be placed on injured reserve to join Shaun Suisham, but that would mean that they would not have his services at all this season.
When Suisham was dealing with an injury of his own, the Steelers signed Shayne Graham and kept him on the roster for a few weeks in spite of the fact that Suisham did not miss a game. He was there, however, should they have needed him, which was a real fear. That may be the case again here with Hartley.
And, truth be told, this roster is not so deep that it would be an absurdity to carry two kickers with one being injured. Especially when that roster spot is only temporary while a player that will obviously be on the 53-man roster is serving a suspension.