Mike Tomlin Not Encouraged By Progress Of Martavis Bryant

For as many head-turning plays he may make during practices, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant, at least so far, seems to more than make up for his raw talent with deficiencies elsewhere in his game.

This was on prominent display on Saturday night against the New York Giants, during which he dropped one key third-down pass that he could have caught, then proceeded to catch the fourth-down pass, only to allow the ball to get knocked out of his arms once he got back up to try to advance the ball.

Perhaps it was just some residual angst over his prized rookie’s shaky start to the preseason, but head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t sound overly pleased, nor in a complimentary mood, after practice yesterday when asked about his work that day.

He made a couple plays today but we know he’s capable of that. I’m looking for him to grow in all areas and have the type of detail in his work where we can rely upon him. Like a lot of young guys he’s moving toward that. Not at a quick enough pace for us, not at a quick enough pace for him, so we’ll continue to work.

This came after Bryant finished off a day of practice pulling in two impressive touchdowns in the final drill of the afternoon, which got plenty of attention from the Twittersphere and likely prompted the question being asked of Tomlin.

Was it just a bit of tough love? Maybe a message to the rookie, to let him know he’s far from having earned anything? Perhaps some genuine frustration relating to his slow development? It may be safe to assume it was likely a bit of everything.

Tomlin apparently wanted to see if the 6’4” wide receiver could contribute to the team’s cause on special teams on Saturday night, because he gave Bryant the opportunity to return punts in the second half, and with disappointing results.

Of the two punts that he fielded, he badly muffed the first one, but at least had the presence of mind and ability to fall on the ball to maintain possession. The other punt that he fielded didn’t exactly appear graceful, either. I don’t know how much more this special teams experiment will last, but it may already be over.

Going back to offense, it is worth mentioning that Bryant was able to draw two pass interference calls during the game. But he also displayed a tendency to body catch the ball rather than use his hands, as well as a seeming willingness to be satisfied with drawing a flag.

At this rate, I don’t anticipate that Bryant will carve out much of a role for himself on offense during his rookie season.

Sure, he’ll be sent out on a deep route here and there in addition to getting some looks in the red zone, but it certainly doesn’t sound as though Tomlin is very encouraged about the prospects of the rookie developing into a more trustworthy talent than that this year while presumably serving as the fifth, if not sixth wide receiver. He needs to rebound in a big way in the next game to creep out of the dog house.

About the Author

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

    You have to wonder when the season starts, if he’s not playing on special teams and he’s the fifth WR, will he even be activated for games, unless there is an injury at WR?

  • NW86

    Nope, I think there will be games early in the season when Bryant doesn’t get a helmet. Especially with Archer being able to serve as an emergency 5th in case of injury during a game.

  • sweep_the_legarrette

    We knew he was a work in progress when we drafted him. But still, that was one ugly performance Saturday.

  • Paddy

    Agree, they knew what they were getting, now Tomlin has to coach him up. That’s his job

  • sweep_the_legarrette

    Coaches can do all they can and sometimes players still don’t work out. Take Limas Sweed, for example. I do think Bryant can be a great player, however.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    He should play sparingly this year. Against teams with short CBs he should be on the field occasionally on 3rd downs and in the red zone. This should result in some 1st down conversions and some TDs. His confidence should increase with this limited success while he works on the rest of his game.

    If he bulks up a bit and works his butt off, his role can increase quite a bit in the future. For now, let’s just agree that he has great potential.

  • srdan

    I’m reading between the tea leaves here, and I’d have to say that this is just Mike motivating his players.

  • dkoy85

    My fingers are crossed that with the 2 scrimmages he is able to build the confidence going against different CB’s and has learned enough from his in game mistakes that he is able to have a nice comeback game. I’m not worried yet, but if he doesn’t start to become more consistent by the regular season I’ll start to worry.

  • dkoy85

    I think so to. Bryant has mentioned that he likes when the coaches ride him- so he might be one of those tough love type of players.

  • Justin

    Not only should he play it should be often, those 2 P.I. Count as BIG PLAYS made & if that was Ben throwing prolly was a TD!, the kid played high level college if early snaps were good for AB Sanders & Wallace why not this kid? Let him work don’t chastise him for the likes of L. Moore

  • Jason

    I’d settle for good. Great might be pushing it.

  • Justin

    Because giving D. Moye snaps with the 2’s when he’s not even going to make the team & throwing L. Moore a fade route is how you show these rookies you gotta earn it!!!!

  • Kurt Williams

    I still don’t understand force feeding him punt return duties. He didn’t do it in college, so muffed punts should be expected. He is a 6’4 receiver and seems to dominate in redzone situations. Here’s a thought, why not play to his strengths? I get the tough love approach, but shouldn’t the expectations be tempered a bit as he learns the nuances of playing wr. 9 catches as a freshman, 10 as soph and 42 as a jr. Let him develop.

  • Eric MacLaurin


    People like him aren’t lacking for confidence against CB’s

    When you’re that fast you’re usually way too confident & the issues are about not thinking you need to try as hard or learn as much.

  • steeltown

    Tough love no doubt. Tomlin is not known for giving rookies praise and im sure he wants this kid to work even harder after some uneven play last week. But, its undeniable, he has some serious (raw) talent.

  • steeltown

    No better coach than Mann in my opinion, no none sense and a stickler for detail

  • Kurt Williams

    I would like to hear Mann’s take on Bryant’s development.

  • Steelers12328882

    I wasn’t a fan of drafting Bryant, so I’m probably a bit biased, but he’s lucky DHB has been so bad or else he could be 1 of 4 draft pics not to make the 53. As long as Justin Brown can fill the 4th WR spot I think we’ll be fine with our depth but 1 of the 2 needs to step up and be a player.

  • He was a 4th round pic. He will make the 53, but he will be inactive early.

  • steeltown

    Here’s something from Scott Brown the other day.

    Mann: “He has the speed you can’t coach, the size you can’t coach. I think he’s got a chance to help us, I really do. I think we’re going through some growing pains with him but we knew that coming in because the guy hasn’t played that much…What we’ve got to do is get him honed in, teach him how to do things. He’s doing pretty good as far as learning it and having recall. He’s just not doing it quite right all of the time. If we just keep on coaching him and spoon feeding him until we can get him to learn it, he does have the talent to be able to help us.”

  • Steelers12328882

    I didn’t say he wouldn’t make it. It’d be foolish of me to think I could predict the future. That being said I don’t believe he would be the first 4th rd pick not to make it. Not positive on that, but looking at him so far he’s certainly not the worst 4th rd pick we’ve ever selected.

  • dkoy85

    When you watch him drop his head because of a bad play and then keep making mistakes and keep dropping his head and cover his face with his helmet- that to me shows his confidence was shaken. He needs to gain it back and hopefully you’re right and it was that he was over confident and it now humbled him. But if it shook his confidence it can have a downward spiral effect on him similar to Sweed. So learn from your mistakes, start making plays, be confident and not cocky, and be a good football player.

    I think the first preseason was either really good for him or detrimental to his success. We’ll see.

  • Jim Foles

    Hard to tell about any of our wr’s playing with gradkowski and Jones at qb.

  • Kurt Williams

    Steeltown, thanks. I think this is what everyone should have expected with Bryant.

  • PA2AK

    as long as he doesn’t get pushed to the PS i’m fine with it. He seems like a kid that will take some time to mature and learn. T is riding him and as I understand, Bryant can appreciate that sort of motivation. He fell that far for a reason. Him getting a few catches this season is still likely, but that’s all I’m hoping for. He should be a nice player in 1-2 years.

  • The talent is there, but he is very raw. That is why he fell tot he 4th in the first place.

  • joed32

    He had a great practice yesterday with 2 TDs. His height will be valuable in the RZ.

  • cencalsteeler

    Tomlins calling him out. This isn’t a cake walk, Martavis, you have to put in the extra work. I’ve been paying close attention to Alex’s training camp updates. First to the field, last to leave, extra reps, etc. Haven’t seen much added effort from Bryant and that is concerning. Good call by coach T. Let it be known that you expect more from him. Call him out and let it be known that you need to see more effort. The days of college cruise control are over.

  • srdan

    And one was on Ike. When it comes to defending fades in teh endzone, he is up there in the league. For a rook to get his, is impressive.

  • joed32

    Yes it is.

  • Big White

    I think the article pretty much nailed it. Bryant will be a four wide guy with the exception to injury. He had better grow up quick though because Justin Brown isn’t getting a lot of chatter by accident.

  • cp72

    We struggled in the red zone last season. Let the kid have snaps inside the 20 and throw him fades his entire rookie year. If he is raw on his route running don’t play him the first 80 yards. It would be foolish not to use him as a weapon in the red zone however. He could have a 3 to 5 inch advantage on the DB. Just tell him Martavis run to pylon. A high school kid can run that route.

  • lazer125

    I think hes gonna be an asset early and maybe sometime often and they want him to step up fast so hes got some pressure but the coaches will give him time….

  • BFB

    I would keep Moye and send this one to PS. On ST’s it is a wash. On playing ability and experience, Moye gives you more at this point.
    I hope Bryant turns it around. Limas served up a lifetime’s worth of disappointment and Steeler Nation is not looking for any more of that type of action.

  • SteveM2

    Martavis Bryant blew the opportunity of winning the Giants game by not being mindful –plenty of remaining clock time, he’d already gotten the first down, and defenders were close by– of the game scenario, when he tried to do too much and was stripped of the football because of it. By not coddling Bryant after an inexcusable football mistake, Coach Tomlin is simply doing his job.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    You seem to be disagreeing with me, yet AB and Sanders played very little in their first years. Check out AB now. I am not saying he can’t turn into a great player, but how often would you play him immediately with his current performance? Would you have him starting? How about WR3? If so, you would be taking away Justin Brown and his fine performance so far, or taking Moore’s place.

    Moore might just be a solid speedy slot guy for 3rd downs right now. JB might be the guy to make the tough plays over the middle. I say they all have their attributes and should all get chances depending on the opponents and circumstances.

  • joed32

    Trying too hard to make something happen is something that rookies do, he will learn.

  • wdhammer

    Martavis is the type of player you wait and wait and wait and finally come to the sad conclusion this kid will never reach his full potential . Either lazy or just all around work ethic bad habits caching up to him .He’s the kind of kid that’s wows! you or you so disgusted you cut him . They’ll keep him this yr and hope .

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    I would def make all of these assumptions based off one preseason game. Def the smart way to analyze a player

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    I’m more concerned with mental mistakes than I am with physical ones. Fumbles can be fixed, ask Tiki Barber