It seems to me that it would be a rather big deal if the Pittsburgh Steelers are able to get something more out of third-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant on Sunday than they were able to this week. Despite being targeted six times, he only came up with two receptions for 14 yards in his first game since January 2016.
Now it shouldn’t be taken doomsaying to note that he struggled during his first meaningful game in well over a year; in fact, it’s not remotely surprising at all. I don’t know that there are too many success stories of players who were completely out of the game for more than a year, and of those few, many of them probably got off to a slow start.
Nevertheless, the reality is that Bryant is playing a major role on the offense, seeing the vast majority of the team’s offensive snaps, so it would seem rather important that he starts being more productive on Sunday against the Vikings.
And there is no compelling reason that he could not produce that type of meaningful performance that would have his doubters forgetting about the season opener, during which he was responsible for a dropped pass, hesitance on a screen pass that went nowhere, and slowed on a deep ball that went over his head.
I don’t think it should be understated how significant a moment Sunday was for Bryant on a personal level, and while he said that he has no times for nerves, it’s much easier to say that than to act on it.
He understands the position he is in now and how fragile the opportunity he has is as a professional football player, because he nearly had it taken away from him. To date, he is still not 100 percent fully reinstated from the suspension that kept him away from his team for more than a year.
And being away from the game that long is going to require a period of adjustment. He even admitted as much after yesterday’s practice, telling Chris Adamski that he is going to have to get used to the speed of the game again, of which even the preseason was not adequate preparation.
“I would say just my tempo during the game wasn’t like I am used to it being”, he told the reporter. “So this week I’m just working hard, playing even faster on my routes and my plays, just trying to make the game slower for me, for it slow back down for me”.
On the plus side, he did say that he experienced no conditioning issues after logging around 50 snaps of playing time on Sunday, and that is often an important hurdle in readjusting to the game. And while he said that he had issues performing the way he was used to on Sunday, he believes that he “will be fine this week”.