By now, the Pittsburgh Steelers’s offense was supposed to be winding up into full gear as they get set to bring back explosive wide receiver Martavis Bryant from suspension, who sat out the first four games as a result of multiple failed drug tests.
Of course, nearly all of the wind has been sucked out of those sails with the injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the hopes for an explosive and dynamic offense are sort of put on hold until he returns, in the meantime observers largely just hoping for the team to stay afloat based on Thursday night’s results.
Still, getting Bryant back could help spark some type of life from this offense, as he is an obvious matchup problem for opposing defenses due to his rare combination of size, speed, and jump ball skills, which he showed off in his rookie season last year by snaring nine touchdown passes in 11 games played.
At the very least, adding another talented skill position player to surround Michael Vick with certainly couldn’t make him play worse. Given his tendency to misfire high, as he did on his last throw of the game as he attempted to convert a fourth and one, a receiver with height should be an asset.
Because Vick was only signed in the middle of the preseason, and Bryant has been serving a suspension until yesterday, and spent much of that time out of state, the two have not had the opportunity to build much of a rapport yet, let alone work together, but they have a long week to prepare for the next game.
Starting wide receiver Markus Wheaton was injured in the last game, and was limited to 17 snaps before leaving the field not to return. At the moment, it’s unclear whether or not the injury he sustained could threaten his ability to play in the next game, though it doesn’t seem likely at the moment.
Whether or not he plays, however, Bryant should be expected to be given a big role, even if Darrius Heyward-Bey has played well as the third receiver, hauling in multiple long balls and tying for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns.
Having a dynamic player that threatens defenses and defensive coordinators alike as Bryant has the capacity to do, however, is what is needed for this offense right now with Vick under center, as it will help to open more windows for Antonio Brown to make plays.
As we saw in the last game, Brown has a tendency to try to compensate when his team is depleted, and that can sometimes backfire, as his first reception went for a five-yard loss. That he dropped a 36-yard potential touchdown didn’t help either, but there was clearly a game-long issue in getting him the ball on-target.
Getting a lot more practice time will no doubt help Vick come out better for the next game, but having a full complement of receivers should have just as big an impact for him, especially as he gets back one that potentially matches up well with his few assets.