Coming into today’s game, there were reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers had the intention of using wide receiver Martavis Bryant as a much more integrated piece of their offense than he had been up to this point in the season.
That is not exactly how things ended up going. In fact, he finished the game with just two touches for five yards, three of them coming on an end-around on the first play of the game. After that play, he was taken off the field. And then he was taken off the field once again a short time later.
In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, he spent quite a bit of the game on the sidelines, rather than on the field, contrary to a report by He Who Shall Not Be Named Who Is Not Tony Romo that suggested he would not be subbed out during the game.
PFF’s numbers have Bryant logging 36 snaps during the game out of 69 snaps. That is just more than half, and is actually more than JuJu Smith-Schuster this week, who played 32, which is in itself notable. Smith-Schuster had outsnapped the veteran in each of the previous four games.
But he wasn’t able to do much with the playing time given to him, and it’s really not clear why. Outside of the end-around to start the game, he was only targeted twice for the entire 60 minutes. He had a two-yard reception in the red zone, but later he was unable to locate the ball on a deep throw that fell harmlessly incomplete.
Where his head is, it’s hard to say. There were reports around this time a week ago that the former fourth-round draft pick had previously asked for the Steelers to seek a trade for his services, looking for a team in which he could be given a larger role.
Those reports were never substantiated—despite his girlfriend’s social media posts—and he went on the record to deny them himself, while his teammates insisted that they had a good laugh over the whole situation and how absurdly off-base it was.
But there is no doubt in my mind that he is frustrated, if not with the way that he is being used, then at least with his production. It is unambiguous that he has not broken out this season the way that he and many others expected him to.
Through seven games, Bryant has just 18 receptions for 233 yards and one touchdown, plus three carries for 23 yards. In the meantime, over the course of the past six games, Smith-Schuster now has 17 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
The Steelers have one game left before the bye week, at which point I would not be surprised if Bryant has a serious talk with his coaches about his role in the offense and why he has not been producing. But one thing is for sure, and that is that today’s pregame reports were comically wrong.