The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Martavis Bryant
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 3 Years
Given the fact that the Steelers’ base package is run from the 11 personnel grouping, it would only make sense to include three wide receivers in my first wave of exit meetings, and behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster would be Martavis Bryant, who returned from suspension in 2017 and is hoping to push for a bigger role in 2018.
And make no mistake, the opportunity does absolutely exist for Bryant to seize an opportunity here. While he is certainly not going to take playing time away from Brown, a big rebound year from Bryant could see him work as the primary starting outside wide receiver over Smith-Schuster if it is something that gives the Steelers the best opportunity to win.
It’s not as though Smith-Schuster is unaccustomed to working in the slot, which is where he saw the majority of his playing time during his rookie season, and given the frequency with which the team uses 11 personnel, all three of them should see plenty of playing time. If they all perform at a high level, it will only make the package even more popular to use.
But in order for that to happen, Bryant absolutely needs to improve from last year, which he appeared to begin doing late in the season. While he clearly is looking for an opportunity outside of Pittsburgh—given, quite frankly, that they wouldn’t be able to afford him in free agency if he actually plays the way he is capable of—he could be a huge asset for the 2018 season, in the final year of his rookie contract.
In 2017, however, he dropped passes, he ran indecisive routes, he struggled to track football down the field, and he was frequently unable to evade the first defender.
These issues were slowly alleviated, though not eliminated, as the season wore on, and he even managed to catch two of his three passes on deep targets over the final few games, making some big plays on the way.
The most important development is the fact that he made a number of key catches on third down, some of them with a high degree of difficulty through traffic or trajectory. He has one more year to try to put it all together, and if he does, that bodes well for a Super Bowl run.