Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is certainly becoming an enigmatic player. He is immensely talented, but there are still key elements of his game that are holding him back from his full potential, including his hands and his jump ball consistency.
But one of his defining traits has been his ability to produce with the ball in his hands—that is, to gain yards after the catch. And even though none of his career-high 10 receptions against the Broncos produced an explosive play, he still showed an impressive ability to make things happen after receiving the pass.
Take, for instance, a simple screen pass near midfield in the second quarter, which was thrown at the line of scrimmage. With Heath Miller trying to lead block in front of him, Bryant cut back around inside, juked Von Miller, and cut back outside, using his speed to beat one cornerback while the downfield blocking cleared the rest of the way for the 15-yard reception.
Late in the quarter, on a second and 12 play, Bryant ran a short curl route, showing his numbers, but smartly came back a bit to the quarterback. After receiving the pass, he immediately set up cornerback Aqib Talib with a hard step inside before turning outside to pick up about 10 yards. He converted on third and two with a screen pass over the middle.
Later, midway through the third quarter, isolated outside the numbers on the right side, Bryant showed something else. He came back to the ball and made the catch on third and nine even with Talib hitting him as he caught the pass. He turned around and fought forward to make sure that he got the first down as well.
A bit later in the quarter, Bryant nearly broke one if not for just barely stepping out of bounds as he juked yet another defender. On second and eight deep in Steelers territory, he took a corner route reception, fighting through Talib’s tackle attempt as he spun himself out of bounds, and Bryant was off running. It was only the perimeter, and not the cornerback, who stopped him here.
He came back on the following play, which was third and four, to convert the first down. And again, he did so in traffic, getting the better of Talib by wrestling the ball away in what was nearly one of those simultaneous possession scenarios.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, the surprisingly elusive 6’4” receiver once again beat Talib, this on a screen pass, simply beating him outside with a slight hesitation move, to pick up nine yards on a first and 10 play.
Of course, there were also a couple of passes that Bryant could have had that he failed to catch, including at least one very obvious clear drop, and another deep ball that he gave himself no chance to come down with by mistiming his jump. He is still a work in progress, but his ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands will continue to make him a dangerous weapon while he hones his skills.Pittsburgh Steelers