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Let’s Talk About Martavis Bryant

This isn’t normally the sort of thing that I would dedicate an article to, but after a number of days of going back and forth with a number of members of our community, I thought that it might be worthwhile to better flesh out the course of events of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant from my perspective.

Much of this started in earnest as a result of a recent article that I wrote following the initial Ian Rapoport report that the team was fielding calls from teams regarding Bryant, after which I wrote an article in which I explained that the lone condition under which I would consider entertaining offers was if I anticipated that he would be an off-field problem:

“And let me make it clear”, I wrote less than a week ago, “my feelings on whether or not the Steelers should entertain trade offers for Bryant is contingent upon the idea of him creating problems. If he is content to play out the season, then that’s fine, I’m not interested in moving him”.

I did offer a slew of criticisms of his 2017 performance that I believe remain valid. His route-running has remained an issue. He dropped or struggled to track too many passes. His work in the area of ‘combat catches’ and elusiveness after the catch were not up to his previous standards.

That said, these facets of his game saw an upward trajectory of improvement as the season progressed. Not only did he improve, so did Ben Roethlisberger, which benefitted all the wide receivers, including Antonio Brown. But the improvement in his numbers, including with respect to efficiency, is far from limited only to the improvement in the play of the quarterback. He also played better himself.

He broke more tackles in the second half of the season. He made better use of his frame to make catches that were contested. He was more efficient in tracking deep targets, which actually resulted in him catching a few, after having had just one over the course of the first dozen or so games.

That said, the reality of the situation is that this is going to be Bryant’s last season in Pittsburgh, which I think is something that most are resigned to (some even glad for). He has clearly expressed his desire to play a bigger role in an offense than can be afforded him with the Steelers behind Brown and the emerging JuJu Smith-Schuster, with the addition of a prolific pass-catching running back in Le’Veon Bell.

There is ample reason to believe that Bryant can be a much more impactful and dynamic player in 2018 than he was in 2017, and that alone is sufficient reason to laugh off most any trade offer when talking about a team with a finite Super Bowl window.

I have been informed by multiple people that I do not like Bryant, which is far from the truth. I like him just fine, and I was among the first to comment upon his displays of maturity when he first reported to the team.

He is clearly somebody who grapples with some issues, generally when he is alone, which we have seen from his social media interactions, and one can only hope that he has learned and grown from his experiences over the course of the past two years.

Internally, Bryant has been viewed to a man as a good teammate. I have no reason to believe that he is interested in pushing again for a trade this year, as I have the impression that he is resigned to the reality that the Steelers will not be offered compensation for his services that would for them justify moving him. And as long as he is sincere in his efforts and ambitions angling for 2019 free agency, there is no reason they should consider anything but an unrealistic and disproportionate trade offer.

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