In last week’s film room, I touched upon how a split second was negating the success of Martavis Bryant’s go routes. Bryant will be the area of focus again this week but not for another flaw but for a refined piece of his game that has seen major improvement since his reinstatement.
Bryant’s identity since he entered the National Football League has been centered around speed and size. However, since the receiver’s reinstatement this season, Bryant has shown the Pittsburgh Steelers that he is more than just a one trick pony, displaying tremendous toughness and concentration to make catches in traffic. Throughout the first quarter of the season, Bryant has flashed his progression as he expands into something much more than just a home run threat.
Bryant recorded three receptions for 48 yards against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, with two receptions standing out for the receiver’s incredible display of concentration. Working the middle of the field, Bryant makes an incredible leap, high pointing a slightly overthrown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to convert a third and six. Equally as impressive as the catch itself, is how Bryant is able to bring down the reception and turn upfield in one fluid motion.
It did not take long for Bryant to record his next reception as the receiver immediately followed his third down conversion with another reception to move the chains. Both receptions are very similar in fashion, Bryant is once again working the middle, catching the ball at its highest point and hanging on through a hit from behind.
Turning back to a week earlier, Bryant showed more signs of growth in the Steelers’ week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears. While Bryant’s simple out route may not look flashy, the significance behind the route is what is important. Called “Ben’s most important route” by former Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes, the out route is crucial to Roethlisberger’s trust, which is why it is encouraging that Bryant has the timing down to a tee. The ball is released just before Bryant cuts towards the sideline and by the time Bryant turns, the ball is in a place where only he can get to it.
While Roethlisberger may not be the backyard quarterback he once was, he still does scramble on occasion, requiring a degree of improvisation from his receivers. On the play above against the Bears, Roethlisberger scrambles to his right, drawing an open window to fire a pass to Bryant. And much to his quarterback’s delight, Bryant is able to hang on despite being tackled from behind mid catch.
Over the course of the first quarter of the 2017 season, Bryant’s offseason work is paying dividends in his progression. While his unmatchable speed may still be his greatest weapon, Bryant is expanding his horizon as he works over the middle. The former “one trick pony” has added a couple more tricks to his arsenal, leading to a greater rapport with his quarterback.