Filling the Shoes of Martavis Bryant

“I think he helped all of us — he helped Antonio [Brown], — He controlled safeties and made some big plays for us.” – Ben Roethlisberger on 93.7 The Fan on Martavis Bryant

Last season was full of suspicion surrounding the 4th year wide receiver, Martavis Bryant. Did he really want to be in Pittsburgh? Was he butting heads with fellow teammate and rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster? We may never know where Bryant’s head was truly at all season, but it seems irrelevant now as Bryant was traded to the Raiders in this year’s NFL Draft for a third-round pick. Bryant will look for a fresh start, joining Amari Cooper and newly acquired wide receiver, Jordy Nelson in Oakland.

So, where does this leave the Steelers? Is Bryant replaceable? Irreplaceable? From 2014, Bryant tallied 126 receptions, 1,917 receiving yards, 17 receiving touchdowns, and averaging 15.2 yards per reception (all with the Steelers). Mind you, this was with Bryant missing the entire 2016 season due to suspension. With the emergence of Smith-Schuster, and the addition of second-round draft pick James Washington from this past April’s NFL Draft, will the Steelers be left in good hands?

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster took the league by storm as a rookie last season racking up 58 receptions (5th for rookies), 917 receiving yards (1st for rookies), 7 receiving touchdowns (1st for rookies), and averaging 15.8 yards per reception (10th for rookies). As Smith-Schuster’s role in the offense increased as the season went on, Bryant’s numbers were effected which was presumably the reasoning behind his frustrations throughout the season. The Steelers are hopeful however that Smith-Schuster’s role will continue to increase, and he’ll aid Antonio Brown as the starting wide receivers this upcoming season.

James Washington

Cue the rookie. Washington led Oklahoma State last season in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,549), and receiving touchdowns (14). He averaged 20.9 yards per catch and enters training camp as the no. 3 receiver on the Steelers tentative depth chart. Washington, who ran a 4.54 40 yard dash at this year’s NFL Combine, has a knack for creating separation from defenders and was a well-known deep ball threat in the Big 12. With his “not-so-blazing” speed and smaller stature (5’11”), will his success translate to the NFL? Head coach of the Steelers, Mike Tomlin seems to think so as he compared Washington’s size to both Brown and Smith-Schuster.

Who Else We Got?

The rest of the Steelers notable and prominent receiving core consists of Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, and tight-ends Jesse James and Vance McDonald. Rogers, who is coming off of a season-ending ACL tear, looks to once again battle for the slot receiver position, while Heyward-Bey and Hunter will look to keep their reserve roles. Heyward-Bey has also had a viable role on special teams over the last few seasons, while Hunter looks to be more of a red zone target for Roethlisberger this upcoming season. It seems that Roethlisberger, who still appears to be at the top of his game despite retiring rumors earlier in the off-season, will have a plethora of weapons, including LeVeon Bell at his disposal for the 2018-19 NFL season. But will it be enough?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *