Missing Pieces 2016: WR Martavis Bryant

Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp a bit under a month from now, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.

Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.

The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2015 to 2016, which seems to be increasingly common for them in recent years.

Though he is not exactly gone in the same sense as those who have retired, signed elsewhere, or were released, would-be third-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant is none the less as gone as everybody else I’ve written about so far, as well as everybody that I will discuss after.

Bryant, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick, has no doubt been an important part of the Steelers’ offensive rise over the course of the past two seasons, but his off the field issues have dogged him in a very real way and threaten to end his career before he even sees a second contract.

He has already served a four-game suspension in violation of the league’s substance abuse policy during the 2015 season, and the league announced early in this offseason that he is now to serve an indefinite suspension for the same violation, with the first possibility of reinstatement coming roughly a year from now.

His loss is not an insignificant one by any means, no matter how many weapons the Steelers might have, or think they have, to fill the void that he leaves behind him. In just 21 regular season games, he has accounted for 15 touchdowns, including a rushing touchdown, on 76 receptions for 1314 yards, along with eight carries for 49 yards.

In three career postseason games, he has added another 19 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to four carries for 90 yards, which includes two runs of 40 yards or more, both of which occurred during the team’s most recent postseason campaign.

The Steelers, of course, have Antonio Brown, so it’s not as though the loss of Bryant robs them of their top target, to be clear. And the combined talents of Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and the man whom they drafted largely as a safety net against Bryant’s issues, second-year Sammie Coates, should provide them with fine talent at the wide receiver position. Nevertheless, it will be difficult to fully replicate the combination of size, speed, quickness, and short-area elusiveness that he brings to the table.

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