As raw as he might be, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has the potential to be a playmaker as a rookie, if utilized properly. This is the reason the Steelers drafted him in the fourth round, and his glimmers of that potential in practice have seen him climbing the ranks over the last few days.
Earlier this week, according to Ed Bouchette, the coaching staff informed the 6’4” rookie wide out that he will be receiving more opportunities with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger “so he can get more familiar with catching passes from him”.
Said the quarterback about one of his newest targets: “He’s shown a couple plays recently that are very encouraging, but he’s got a long way to go. He’s a young guy but he shows the interest and the desire to want to be great and to learn and so we hope he just keeps doing that”.
Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also writes that the rookie has strung together several practices now in which he’s made big plays. But that won’t necessarily assure himself of getting on the field more frequently.
The key to consistent playing time is not big plays, but rather, quite simply, consistent play, and Bryant still has much to prove in that regard.
Still, it’s a positive sign in his development that he has spent the last few days working with the top receiver group along with Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Justin Brown, when he has been previously working with the longshot candidates.
As a fourth-round rookie, of course, he will likely be given a pass just about no matter how much he may struggle, but there’s no shortage of receivers eager to seize the spot he figures to hold on the 53-man roster.
That includes second-year receiver Justin Brown, who while he has been working with Roethlisberger and playing well, is still not guaranteed anything. That also includes Derek Moye, a 6’5” target who proved that he can play to that height with his two impressive catches during the 2013 season.
Admittedly, some of the other receivers from the so-called deep group have not necessarily lived up to the billing. Danny Coale was recently waived injured, replaced with James Shaw. C.J. Goodwin has had trouble staying healthy as well.
Darrius Heyward-Bey remains sidelined with a concussion. Meanwhile, Lanear Sampson has been just a body, while Kashif Moore has only shone flashes of potential, though he did spend some time on the practice squad a year ago.
Still, while it may seem inevitable that Bryant will make this roster, it’s not nearly as certain that he will get his playing time. He will have to earn that, or else the likes of Brown, Moye, or Heyward-Bey would be more than happy to fill that playing time vacancy. He must begin to showcase consistency and dependability by running clean, precise routes and coming back to the ball, starting tomorrow with the opening of the preseason.