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2017 South Side Questions: How Big A Role Will Bryant Play As Brown Returns?

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 for as long as they push on through the postseason, 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: How big of a role will Martavis Bryant be asked to play for the Steelers during the postseason?

Since being benched for disciplinary reasons, wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been given some extra opportunities to contribute. For half of the season half of the year, in fact, the Steelers have had to deal with not having either JuJu Smith-Schuster or Antonio Brown, each of whom missed two full games, which meant more playing time for Bryant.

And he has put up solid numbers. Over the last three games in particular, he put up over 180 receiving yards. During the second half of the season, he had 369 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Functioning largely as the third receiver on a team that likes to use their running back a lot in the passing game, that is not bad at all.

For most of the season, though, he has not had a lot of the game-breaking plays that he was beginning to become known for prior to his season-long suspension. There have been some in recent weeks, which is a positive sign coming.

He had two receptions on deep targets, for example, over his final three games. He had not had one of those since Week Two. His touchdown reception against the Patriots was also an excellent example of the talent that he possesses, when he is able to command it.

One area in which he has contributed in postseasons past is on end-arounds. He had two runs of 40-plus yards during the 2015 postseason, and they have been giving him opportunities to carry the ball this year. Don’t be surprised if he gets one or two of these per game.

I still have the sneaking feeling that the Steelers will need him to deliver a couple of big plays during this postseason run to get where they want to be. Especially if Brown is not at 100 percent.

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