The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Martavis Bryant
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 2 Years
Martavis Bryant didn’t quite have the sophomore season that everybody envisioned for him, including himself, no doubt, and his struggles began before ever taking the field in a meaningful game. During training camp, it was announced that he would have to serve a four-game suspension after failing multiple drug tests.
This was a possibility that the Steelers were aware of since early in the offseason, as the team brain trust discussed that factor as having influences their draft process, which resulted in the team drafting a wide receiver in the third round.
After Bryant’s suspension was completed, he suffered a knee injury in his first practice back out on the field, which delayed his season debut by an extra week, and when he did, it was with Mike Vick starting at quarterback, and Landry Jones finishing.
Not that that stopped him from exploding onto the scene. In his 2015 debut, he received eight targets, catching six passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, which included an 88-yard catch-and-run reception that proved to be the game-winner over the Cardinals.
His second game, with Jones starting at quarterback, came to be more representative of his season average, catching three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown, recording three touchdowns within his first two games back.
In his first two games with Ben Roethlisberger back, he slumped a bit, catching seven passes for 80 yards and no scores, but he followed that up with arguably the biggest game of his career, catching six passes for 178 yards and another touchdown.
After a 114-yard, one-touchdown game two weeks later, however, he spent the home stretch of the season largely in a slump, with only a 10-catch, 87-yard game as a highlight. He caught just two passes for six yards in the final two weeks.
His struggles prompted a public challenge from Roethlisberger, telling him that he has to be tougher in the postseason, and he responded with one of the more impressive touchdowns that you will ever see, and had nine receptions for 154 yards in the Divisional round.
But Bryant showed himself to be a player still very much in development, and whose college scouting report was accurate. His hand consistency is still an issue, as is his route running, and he still seemed to have more communication issues than the team’s other receivers.
He may be pound-for-pound the most physically gifted player that the Steelers have, but he is still working on putting it all together, and it’s not clear that that will ever happen. He has shown himself to be a man who has a thick skin and is willing to take coaching, which will help him on his path toward excellence, which is very much attainable for him.