Sunday might have been Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s returning debut performance in approximately 19 months, but tonight will be his true debut reintegration into the offense as he works on the field again for the first time with Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball and having Antonio Brown on the other side of the field opposite him.
Against the Falcons on Sunday, the former fourth-round draft pick played 21 snaps and worked both with the first-team unit and whatever you would consider the one that opened the second half. Perhaps the decision was made that they did not get as much of a look at him as they wanted, or that they realized he could handle more.
Still, he did not have a particularly impactful debut, even if the game started with him as the focal point. In all, he was targeted three times, catching two passes for 20 yards, and running the ball on a jet sweep once for a loss, and a fumble in the process.
The first play of the game was a screen that was insufficiently blocked. The defense not only had the numbers, one blocker whiffed on his assignment. There was little that Bryant could do and ended up going down for a loss of three on the play.
He did make a nice adjustment on a 23-yard back shoulder throw later in the game, although he probably got away with a bit of a push off as well. His later target in the second half was a similar throw, but he struggled to adjust to it, and focused on boxing out the defender more than coming back for the ball.
That game was just a tip of the toes back into the pool however. That was working with Joshua Dobbs at quarterback. While Le’Veon Bell will not be present, pretty much the rest of the offense that is going to be there in the regular season should be there tonight, and we should see how big a part of it Bryant will be.
I would imagine you can rest assured Roethlisberger is going to be very excited to target him in live game reps. He was a popular target during the 2015 season despite the fact that his playing time wavered per game and he missed the first five games of the season.
A tall, fast target who can go up for the ball? That’s tempting for any quarterback, but it’s catnip for a quarterback like Roethlisberger. I would expect Bryant to have a rather high usage rate for his snaps on the field.
As I noted in my charting data yesterday, he spent a fair amount of time actually working from the slot. That will be something I will be keeping my eye on as well. If this is something that they intend to be a fairly prolific package this season, it could be a vital source of mismatch opportunities.