Martavis Bryant A Little Good, A Little Bad, A Little Ugly In Opener

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear before the game that he did not by any means expect to see mistake-free football by his unit heading into the team’s first preseason game, especially when their opponent already had a game under their belt.

He certainly didn’t get mistake-free football, although the Steelers may well have had a slightly cleaner score sheet than the New York Giants.

But the Steelers did have their share of noteworthy plays, such as Dri Archer’s long reception in the first quarter, Jarvis Jones registering a sack, and rookie undrafted free agent Howard Jones recovering two fumbles, taking one in for a score.

There were plenty of ups and downs to go around, and perhaps nobody had quite as up and down a night as rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant, whose rawness—both good and bad—was on display.

Bryant’s final stat line reads one reception for 19 yards and two punt returns for two yards, but that certainly doesn’t paint a coherent picture of the game that he had.

For starters, and on the plus side, the lanky rookie twice drew pass interference calls against cornerback Jayron Hosley, the first going for 12 yards and the second going for 47, which brought the Steelers into the red zone.

He also tried to keep their comeback hopes alive late in the game with his 19-yard reception on fourth down and six to go from the Giants’ 46-yard line with under a minute and a half to play.

He spun out of the reach of the first defender, pulled himself off the turf, and tried to advance the ball—which is when he ran into problems.

Safety C.J. Barnett popped up and laid a hit on Bryant, getting his arm squarely on the ball and knocking it loose. The Giants recovered the fumble, and that essentially ended the game.

On the play immediately preceding that, Bryant couldn’t haul in a Landry Jones pass that, while not perfectly thrown, seemed to be catchable, and brought up the fourth-down play to begin with.

Earlier in the game, Tomlin replaced Archer with Bryant as the punt returner, and he muffed it on his first attempt at fielding, though he was able to recover his own loose ball. His second punt he was able to return four yards.

Including the two pass interference calls, Bryant helped the offense advance 78 yards. By size matchups alone—not to mention the rules emphasis on contact beyond the five-yard box—the rookie should be a deep threat this season, whether the pass is complete or not.

But as we saw last night, sometimes even on the same play, it’s clear that Bryant’s development will require patience. He is going to make some mistakes, but he also offers the potential to put the hurt on defenses. It will be interesting to see how he comes back in the next preseason game.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Matt Manzo

    Like Alex said, it will be interesting to see how Bryant handles this. Let’s hope he keeps growing!

  • 2443scott

    hes a rookie in his first game and game was online and was alot pressure on him ….he will learn from this game and the coaching staff will show and tell him about the mistakes

  • cp72

    Let’s no focus to much on hating on Bryant. We should focus all of our collective energy on hating on Mike Adams.


    Anyone else shaking their head at the fade to Lance Moore in the end zone? We drafted a guy for that. At least as a decoy. Plus we have other guys( justin brown, moye). Why are we still throwing fades to short guys in the ends zone? Poor coaching on display as well in this opener.


    Yeah. We’re talking about a guy with one year of college experience. Of course he isn’t going to be polished. As for Mike “Limas” Adams I’m with ya.

  • steeltown

    Thank you for writing this article. Far too many premature Bryant haters.

  • Steelers@2010

    I agree, I was hoping to see a much better performance from Martavis Bryant, but hopefully he will continue 2 grow and learn from this. The next question is this, will he get down on himself or will he work harder 2 get better? I’m pulling for the kid. Mike Adams? It’s time 2 say adios amigos.

  • John Fraraccio

    He certainly got thrown in head first…and I figured Coach Tomlin would see to that. Gotta start somewhere.

  • Steve

    Actually on the deep pass interference, Bryant could have caught the ball for a TD, Now on the muffed punt, it was good he got the ball back.

  • RMSteeler

    Jones didn’t do the tall receivers any favors with his high, hard fastballs behind the receivers. Looked like Leftwich throws, minus the big windup.

  • Steve

    Don’t know what you were watching, but went back and watched the game a 2nd time and Jones was much better than Gradkowski.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Bryant’s play just proves the Steelers got him in the correct round. The talent and ability are there. But so is the rawness and inexperience. A bust would not have made that last fourth down catch at all. But trying to get up afterward and advance before getting stripped of the ball? That’s simply a rookie mistake.

  • Ike Evans

    That’s not saying alot though

  • Jesse Murray

    It was grossly underthrown and hung in the air for an age. Bryant did well to get anything from it. If you watch the play Bryant had beaten the coverage and was wide open. The throw was the problem not Bryant.

  • Jesse Murray

    Sammy Watkins has looked like utter dross his first two pre season games. Jake Matthews a top ten pick looked absolutely lost. Dennard, marvin Lewis’s best rookie CB Ive ever seen? Looked awful. Ebron a top ten pick looked awful. Bryant is a rookie judging him on one game where he was trying to catch balls tossed by Landry Jones is premature to say the least.

  • Birdman

    He actually played well. He didn’t give up a sack. Unlike Beachum who almost got Bruce killed. Gerry Dulac even said he played well. The Adams hate has to stop. Of course he still needs work(Ex: bending with his knees not waist)

  • Jacque Strappe

    2 things we can construe from this game, he’s not the first option to return punts, and he’s still tall.

  • cp72

    He didn’t give up a sack but was beaten early more than a few times. He played well against guys that are no where near the talent level of guys he would face in an actual game. I don’t want to hate on Adams he just makes it so easy

  • Birdman

    Smh. He help his own against JPP who when healthy is one of the best DEs in the game. Adams statline: No sacks, No qb pressures, ZERO QB hits

  • Jason White

    Good article Matthew. There is definitely a lot of premature hate going on. Its one of the reasons I hate the preseason, really its the only reason. Fans are so dumb that they will judge the performance of practice squad players and camp bodies and use it as a reason to predict a sub. 500 record for the Steelers in 2014. Happens every year.

  • Big White

    His job is to have an impact. Without a doubt, that’s what we got last night, for better or worse. I dig.

  • Big White

    Agreed, has to fight back through the arms and contact. Just reeling looking immediately to the ref won’t cut it for very long.

  • cp72

    Watch the game bro. It was clear he was beat at least 3 times I can recall. Twice by JPP and once by Ayers. I’ve watched the game twice and feel confident in what I saw not what Dulac is telling me to think.

  • Chad Lakkis

    I remember another Steeles rookie that had an awkward transition from college to the pros. He caught a nice pass, stood up and wanted to show off by spike/spinning the ball. Unfortunately the ball was still live because no one touched him down. It was recovered by the other team.

    That rookie went on to have a pretty good career and even caught a Super Bowl winning touchdown pass. His name was Plaxico Burress.

    Let’s not beat up on Bryant so soon.

  • Mike Maz

    Remember how bad Santonio Holmes was when he was a rookie? But he improved and played great on the biggest stage! Bryant will improve and he will be great!

  • Kurt Williams

    AMEN, I said the exact same in another post. I would have put Justin Brown, and Bryant in the game for that play call. Sometimes these coaches outsmart themselves.

  • steeltown

    Exactly, he made the catch, a huge reception had it been in an actual game and we were trailing at the end. Like you said, his (big) mistake was getting up when he didn’t have complete control, you could see he was holding it high on his chest when he was down

  • Kurt Williams

    I would like to see L. Jones with some decent O-line protection. Gradkowski was high on some throws. The Spaeth overthrow was bad.

  • Mike Frantz

    This was the perfect first game for Bryant. He clearly flashed special ability (wide open deep), but made some very rookie mistakes. We can see the talent, but the coaches have enough to keep him humble and working hard. If he’d made it look easy, I think he may have gotten complacent. I like to see the mistakes early. Same with Tuitt. He can see what happens when gap integrity is blown. Bad things happen. Every play is important.

  • Steve

    Sure was over throwning quite a few times. Never seen a QB throw off his back foot and not following through like Gradkowski does, think he is looking to get hit. Glad it was not just me seeing the same.

  • Steve

    It is a BIG step from College to the Pros and most rooks heads are spinning at this time in camp. Clowney has not looked very well also.

  • Steven Vincent

    I really want to give MB some love, but the fact is his performance was just plain bad. On the catch and fumble his hand position was wrong. It was a crossing route with the ball thrown in front of him about chest high. He caught the ball with both hands turned up and trapped it into his chest rather than with both palms facing out in a V formation, catching it with his hands and then securing it under his arm. That’s Receiving 101. Really basic stuff.

    Then, rather than continuing along his path to get the edge and turn up field, he fell to the ground for no apparent reason. He may have been slightly touched by a defender as he caught the ball, but he is a big dude running at speed…there is no reason to simply crumple to the ground. Presumably he has some athleticism and agility. Sure didn’t show it.

    And of course once he gets back up, rather than seeking the edge he runs right into a crowd and does not protect the football.

    Well, they said he was raw. But this is like sophomore year in high school raw. If the team thinks he has a prayer of becoming an NFL receiver, better put him on the practice squad. No way he makes the 53.

  • mokhkw

    On both calls he got PI on I thought the ball was a tad late in arriving.

  • mokhkw

    Not me. I think that on pure talent alone, he’s the best WR we’ve drafted since Plax. I think both are fairly similar as rookies – raw and un-refined – but I think Bryant is a superior athlete.

    We know talent doesn’t guarantee success in the NFL & I don’t expect much from what will essentially be a red-shirt year but we all should be really excited about getting this guy….in the 4th RD!

    On the fumble after catch, at least he didn’t get up & spike the ball thinking he was still in college. 🙂

  • Zach

    the reality is that we don’t have a backup QB. Let’s hope that Ben stays intact this year again.

  • joed32

    It seems to work well for the Ravens.

  • joed32

    He wouldn’t last a day on the practice squad.

  • michael young

    Even going into the draft it was known that this kid was raw but super talented. At this point I prefer to focus on the bright spots and development week to week from his baseline before the season. What matters most is how he looks at the end of the preseason. Will he learn from his mistakes? The good news is he has already flashed his potential at times. He can get open and stretch the field (which this team needs). I just hope he progresses from week to week. He has the tools. As David would say “he just has to pick them up and put them in his tool belt.” I believe he has better “talent” than you usually pick up in the 4th round of the draft. I think he is going to pay off in the long run. It may just take a little time.