Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant has accomplished many things in his short career thus far, bringing a spark to the offense and a new dimension that has made the team more dynamic, and more dangerous when he is on the field, but his latest achievement—a disappearing act—is a bit concerning, coming right before the playoffs.
Over the course of the past two games, Bryant has caught two passes for six yards. He has one reception for six yards against Baltimore, and his only reception yesterday was a screen pass that went for no gain. He also had an end around for four yards the week prior.
It goes without saying that this slump could not be coming at a worse time. The Steelers had to scrape and claw just to get into the postseason, needing help to do so, and now could be down a starting running back and with one of their big play threats rendering himself impotent.
Even the week prior, when Bryant caught 10 passes, his longest reception in that game was just 15 yards, totaling 87 for the game—far from the big play threat that has become his reputation, and what has been expected of him.
The week before, he caught seven passes for 49 yards, with a long play of 18 yards. Over the span of the past month, Bryant has not recorded a single explosive play, nor has he gotten into the end zone. In his first six games of the season, he had 10 explosive plays, including five of at least 40 yards, and he also had six receiving touchdowns to go along with a rushing touchdown.
Where has the production gone? Why has he been slumping so drastically in recent weeks? Why has his sophomore campaign been an even more up and down rollercoaster than was his rookie season? Didn’t he spend the offseason training, getting strong, polishing his routes, and learning the playbook?
Obviously, a lot of the focus in the passing game over the course of the last few weeks in particular has been on Antonio Brown—though not for good reason, given that he is an All-Pro for a reason. Over the last three games, he has had two games averaging between them close to 15 receptions for 188 yards, which doesn’t leave many targets to spread around to the other pass catchers.
But there is a reason that Darrius Heyward-Bey has been seeing more playing time as well, who was able to contribute early in the season while Bryant was serving a suspension for his own irresponsible behavior. Heyward-Bey took Bryant under his wing as a rookie, but he clearly still has a lot to learn just on the football field.
For the season, Bryant has posted 50 receptions for 765 yards and seven total touchdowns. Those are not bad numbers, especially over an 11-game season, but the fact that he has been struggling of late is a major cause for concern. Even during his 10-catch game, he dropped a couple of passes. The Steelers need him to get right by Saturday.