I doubt that there was anybody else in Heinz Field on Sunday happier to see Martavis Bryant streaking down the field scoring touchdowns and making big catches than was the man throwing him the passes: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Aside from, of course, Bryant himself.
But the two have had a bit of an unsettled relationship over the years in part because Roethlisberger understands the sort of enormous potential that Bryant has, and doesn’t want to see it go to waste—both for Bryant’s own sake, and for the sake of the offense: his offense.
After a shaky season opener in which he only caught two of six official targets—including an outright drop—for 14 yards, Bryant came back on Sunday with three big catches for a total of 91 yards and a touchdown, now to mention a long pass interference penalty that flipped the field. He also carried the ball on a reverse for seven yards.
Roethlisberger was asked to talk about Bryant’s growth from the first game of the season to the second during his weekly spot on 93.7 The Fan. “I thought he played well”, he said. “I thought the first week, not that he didn’t play well, but I think he was still getting back into it. It’s different from a preseason game, it’s a regular season game. He was close, and then last week we kind of saw some from Martavis”.
I personally think it was apparent that Bryant was functioning at an entirely different play speed from the first game to the second, and that is something that the third-year receiver even talked about himself in between games. He said that he was still adjusting to the speed of the game, and that that contributed to his struggles in the opener.
Still, Roethlisberger is convinced that there is even more in there. “I still think that there’s still room out there for some growth. I still think that we can see even more to come”, he said. “I think we will”, he went on, “but the most impressive thing was the third-down slant that he caught”.
The quarterback went on to talk about some of the less obvious aspects of Bryant’s performance on Sunday that stood out to him. “I think it was 22-man”, he said of the third-down conversion, the shortest of his three receptions. “You can see it on film, the second he catches it he’s got four guys around him, he takes a big hit and gets the first down”.
“What he brings on the deep ball and on that slant for a touchdown, those are great things”, the quarterback added, “but for me it’s some of the other stuff that he did that I thought was great”.
What is interesting is that the Steelers scaled back Bryant’s workload and responsibilities from one week to the next. In the opener, he played 50 snaps, which was about 83 percent of their offensive snaps. On Sunday, he played ‘just’ 47, which was about a 64 percent share.