Today, we’re continuing our series on Kevin Colbert’s best and worst trades with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yesterday, we took a look at one of his worst trades when he sent a future draft pick in exchange for Josh Scobee. Today, we’re taking a look at one of his best, when he somehow managed to acquire a third-round pick from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for Martavis Bryant.
When Bryant was on the field, he was an electrifying talent. At 6’4 with a 4.4 40-time, there wasn’t a defensive back in the league with the size and speed combo to effectively match up with him. In 10 games during his rookie season, Bryant had 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging a remarkable 21.1 yards per reception. He also pulled in five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card round loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Then, the trouble began. Bryant was suspended for the first four games of his second season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. When he returned in Week 6, he made his presence known with six receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He finished the season with 50 receptions for 765 yards and six receiving touchdowns in 11 games. In the Divisional Playoff round loss against the Denver Broncos, Bryant had nine receptions for 154 yards and rushed for 40 yards. He also added a rushing touchdown. Bryant couldn’t escape his substance abuse troubles though, and he was suspended for the whole 2017 season due to another violation of the league’s policy.
Bryant was reinstated prior to the 2018 season, but he was a headache. He complained on social media about his role after a Week 7 win over the Bengals where he had just one reception for three yards and skipped a team meeting the following Monday before requesting a trade. He was inactive for the Week 8 game against Detroit, but he still managed to contribute in a reduced role the rest of the season. After Week 8, Bryant had 32 receptions for 369 yards and two touchdowns, finishing 2018 with 50 receptions for 603 yards and two touchdowns.
With the emergence of WR JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2018 and the presence of Antonio Brown, the Steelers explored trading Bryant in the offseason and found a willing participant in the Raiders. Oakland sent the Steelers the 79th overall pick in exchange for Bryant, and the Steelers used that pick to trade up and select Mason Rudolph. To replace Bryant, the Steelers also selected James Washington in the second round. While it’s fair to question whether those two picks were the right selection, it’s without a doubt that the Steelers got more value out of Rudolph and Washington than Oakland got in Bryant. After 19 receptions for 266 yards and no touchdowns through eight weeks, Bryant went on IR with a knee injury and in the offseason was suspended indefinitely due to another substance-abuse policy violation. He wouldn’t play another game in the NFL.
The fact that Colbert was able to get a third-round pick for Bryant is truly remarkable. He was coming off a down season and already had been suspended twice for off-the-field issues. Turning Bryant into a Day 2 pick was and still is a massive win on Colbert’s resume, and this absolutely goes down as one of his best trades as the Steelers GM.