This is probably a pretty obvious article and point to make but still an important one to point out. Getting Martavis Bryant back is clearly huge news for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense, getting their true #2 receiver and hopefully avoiding the revolving door of names that showed up last year in his absence.
Getting him back adds another playmaker to the offense but it takes the heat off Antonio Brown. Especially when Ladarius Green was out last season, which wound up being most of the time, teams could decide to gameplan Brown away with little consequence of anyone else stressing the defense so much it wasn’t worth the risk.
I’ve gone back to this game approximately 14 billion times so I won’t rehash everything about it. But the Miami Dolphins had the blueprint of how to take Brown away, holding him to four receptions and 39 yards in the regular season loss, arguably the worst game he had all year. The gameplan was simple: bracket AB with a corner and a safety, playing 2 Man (also commonly called Cover 5) to take away the short and deep game.
As good as Brown is, he had no chance of getting open and with no other weapon emerging on the Steelers’ offense, the Dolphins could play the same coverage. Pittsburgh knew it was coming but didn’t have the personnel to adjust, though I came down hard on Todd Haley for not moving Brown around enough.
To revisit, here’s two plays that show what I’m talking about. Brown is at the top of the screen on both. Roll the safety to Brown, corner plays trail technique, and he’s out of the equation.
With Bryant back, it’s a much tougher choice for defenses. Do you still play the same coverage to take Brown away? Do you try to bracket both guys, Bryant and Brown, and leave everyone else singled up, meaning you’re one missed tackle away from a huge gain (the safeties are playing deep and could have their back turned vs anything vertical)? Throw in a hopefully healthy Green who can stretch the middle of the field and defenses aren’t going to be able to rely on any one scheme to slow Brown down.
The best thing they can do is vary their coverage and make it unpredictable but they’re eventually going to get themselves in some bad coverages. And with the talent the Steelers are set to have, they’ll take advantage and hopefully fully realize the potential we’ve been yearning for the past two seasons.