The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is expecting to get a boost tomorrow with the 2015 regular season debut of second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who missed the first five games while serving a suspension, and then subsequently injuring his knee in his first practice back from said suspension.
That knee injury occurred a week back from Monday, and he failed to practice for the remainder of the week, which resulted in him remaining deactivated for the Chargers game, which the Steelers managed to win without him. But by the looks of it, they certainly could have used him.
And they will need to use Bryant on Sunday against the dynamic Cardinals offense to keep pace, giving Mike Vick another much-needed weapon, one with size and speed, and perhaps a bit of rhythm with the quarterback.
The Steelers’ backup quarterback has struggled to get in much of a rhythm as a pass thrower through his nine-plus quarters of action, during which Antonio Brown’s reception and yardage record has fallen by the wayside in consecutive games for the first time in over two years.
From what little evidence was available during the preseason, however, there seemed to be a potentially budding rapport between Vick and Bryant, whom the Steelers coaching staff played extensively, in part because they knew that he would be suspended.
One aspect that plays strongly in his favor is that Bryant has, perhaps by a good margin, the largest catch radius on the team, thanks to his combination of height, speed, leaping ability, and strength.
One of the many elements of the quarterback position that has been a point of contention for Vick thus far has been the ability to put the ball on target, in particular with any sort of pressure in his face.
Having a target with an expansive catch radius should help the quarterback not only make more throws, but also coax him into throwing a ball that he may not be comfortable throwing to a player with a smaller catch radius.
Of course, the Steelers may want to work Bryant slowly back into the offense, especially given that Darrius Heyward-Bey has given them no reason to be benched. In fact, he has come up with a couple of key and difficult receptions for Vick over the course of the past two games, including a 15-yard reception on third and one during the game-winning drive against the Chargers.
If Arizona is able to jump out to any sort of substantial lead, however, the coaching staff may be forced to play their hand and get Bryant out there simply to present themselves with the maximal opportunity of hitting on the big play.
They managed to do so with Markus Wheaton midway through the fourth quarter against the Chargers, and such plays were all over Bryant’s resume as a rookie. That may figure to be the role that they have in store for him to complement Vick as the receiver works his way back into the swing of things.