The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Could Martavis Bryant ever be content in the Steelers’ offense?
Maybe I’m wrong, but this seems to me ultimately the question that it all comes down to. Can Martavis Bryant co-exist peacefully within the Steelers’ offense? He is a player who believes he is the top target whenever he is on the field, but the Steelers already have that top target in Antonio Brown.
And they’re going to run the ball more than most teams do, or at least that seems to be the plan based on the past couple of weeks. They have the running back and the offensive line to do it, which is how they turned the tide and righted the ship a year ago.
But he was still targeted seven times in the first game of the season. In his biggest game, against the Vikings, he just so happened to see only five targets. He had ten targets against the Bears. It dipped back to five against the Ravens, when they gameplanned to run, but it was back up to nine a week later.
In the past two weeks, he has only been targeted five times combined. But they have also been throwing the ball fewer times—fewer than 50 in total through both games—so, naturally everybody will see their targets decrease with less passes being thrown.
So let’s re-emphasize. Martavis Bryant was targeted 22 times through the first three games of the season. He was targeted 36 times through the first five games of the season. He was averaging more than seven targets per game on a team that includes Antonio Brown. And he wasn’t happy.
What will make him happy? Is it even about targets? Is it just about his own lack of production, relative to the ascent of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster? I think it’s clear at this point that there are much bigger issues behind the scenes than Bryant or his teammates would tell a member of the media, and I don’t know that it can be resolved.