Steelers Hunt For Cheap Bryant Insurance “Justinfied”

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed their first outside unrestricted free agent of the 2017 offseason on Wednesday when wide receiver Justin Hunter agreed to a one-year contract. While the signing isn’t likely to be a major talking point nationally, on the surface it appears to be a low-risk one and completely understandable.

Even though most expect Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant to be reinstated in the coming weeks following his one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy once again, the organization has to somewhat question his ability to remain clean moving forward.

Hunter, like Bryant, has made his living so far in the NFL with his ability to stretch the field. In fact the two players share a lot of similar receiving statistics entering the 2017 season.

Bryant has 76 catches for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns so far during his career while Hunter has registered 78 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. The similarities between the two players does not end with raw receiving statistics, however. In fact, Bryant has caught 19 of 54 deep pass targets for 766 yards and 8 touchdowns so far during his career while Hunter has caught 21 of 61 deep passes thrown his way for 721 yards and 8 touchdowns.

As you can see below, Bryant and Hunter also posted very similar numbers during their trips to the NFL Scouting Combine. Also, let’s not forget that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were both reportedly present for Hunter’s 2013 pro day. If that’s not enough of familiarity, Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak also knows Hunter very well being as he was the head coach for the Tennessee Titans when that organization drafted him in the second-round.

It’s yet to be seen how Hunter will ultimately fare in Pittsburgh but his Wednesday signing certainly makes a lot of sense for several reasons. Plus, he should be cheap on top of everything else.

Hunter will now be turned over to Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann, who is one of the best in the business when it comes to that position.

In the near future, Alex Kozora will have a full breakdown of Hunter so please be on the lookout for that.

Career Regular Season Receiving Stats
Martavis Bryant21814076131417.314943.662.654.3%
Justin Hunter481816378130516.712751.627.247.9%
Career Regular Season Deep Pass Receiving Stats
Martavis Bryant541935.2%766817
Justin Hunter612134.4%721821
NFL Scouting Combine Results
*Martavis BryantJustin Hunter
40 Yrd Dash4.424.44
20 Yrd Dash2.592.59
10 Yrd Dash1.571.58
225 Lb. Bench Reps16DNP
Vertical Jump3939 1/2
Broad Jump10’04”11’04”
20 Yrd Shuttle4.154.33
3-Cone Drill7.18DNP

  • steelersfan

    Great post

  • Chad

    Wow, those scouting combine comps are pretty illuminating … as are the statistical comps, get to work Richard Mann

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Do we know how much the contract is for?

  • Applebite

    There are some things that can’t be found in stats…Just keep that in mind.

  • jconeoone C

    Numbers look similar. Except MB did it in 27 fewer games. Still I like the signing

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    As much as I like this signing I’m hoping he doesn’t see the field too much. Reason being is that would either mean coates and rogers have regressed or DHB has lost his battle with father time. Or worst of all….

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    1 yr for a bajillion dollars. Basically a steal in regards to the market price

  • WreckIess

    From what I’ve seen, Goodell has to make that decision by the 28th. I doubt he will because Goodell looks at the CBA as a book of suggestions when it comes to how he himself should operate, but hopefully he can get back to the Martavis well before the draft so they don’t have to waste a pick on another receiver just in case.

  • PaeperCup

    Why would it take so long. What’s frustrating is that if the facts say that he’s clean and has been clean, why not just reinstate him now. Instead of waiting until FA is almost dried up, for a team like us to make a decision on what to do at the position. CAn you imagine if Goodell was allowed to make this call after the draft?

  • george

    And he can use the fax machine in Colbert’s office anytime he wants!

  • PaeperCup

    I know. Read that and thought, if you took out the Games Played stat, these guys are eerily similar.

    However, even considering games player, Justin’s Catch% and YPC aren’t too shabby.

  • Cols714

    I know. I have no idea what Goodell does all day to justify the slowness and seemingly arbitrary nature of his judegments.

    It takes for freaking ever to do anything.

  • Ike Evans

    MB isnt on the team beyond this year even if he is reinstated/keeps his nose clean….they wont pay him….especially if he comes back and kills it…so i like the proactive approach they are taking….wouldnt surprise me of they took late round WR either

  • Daniel

    With an elite qb mind you..Hunter didn’t have that luxury

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    False. Two years left on his contract because of last year’s suspension.

  • PaeperCup

    Theory: Bryant will be reinstated, Steelers try to trade him for a high round pick. Use Justin Hunter as Bryant 2.0

  • Boots

    I’m not making excuses for Hunter bc I’m not a huge fan of his but he’s had some bad qb play, so it’ll be interesting to see if having Ben makes a difference.

  • stan

    I knew Hunter was a good deep threat but I’m surprised to see that he is Bryant’s equal as an athletic freak.

  • Reader783

    I sure hope not. MB has much better stats; on a per game basis he is 2x better than Hunter. Hunter is an insurance policy, but MB is bar none the 2 on this team if he’s clean. I know it’s a “if”, but he’s a beast when he plays.

  • Reader783

    They left out the “somersault between the legs catches made” stat though

  • Shane Mitchell

    APRIL FOOLS ?!!!!!!

  • PaeperCup

    He does…but he comes with a risk. And a lot of people here are clamoring for the Steelers to make some bold moves. This would be one.

  • StillersInThe6

    With Big Ben at QB in those 27 fewer games; would be tough to even remember/know who was throwing to Hunter a few years ago in Tenessee

  • StillersInThe6

    Depends what high-round means, and I think the potential upside with Martavis even at risk, is worth more than a 3rd round pick or something. Martavis was doing things in his first 16 games that were near unparalleled.

  • PaeperCup

    I wouldn’t take anything lower than a mid 2nd round pick.

    I know, MB is incredible. I’m one of those that often compared him to Moss…that’s how much I like his talent. But the team just may not want to deal with the other stuff…who knows.

  • StillersInThe6

    Ha, well that’s a bit of a stretch! Moss’ hands were on another planet – Tay needs some work there, but has the athletic gifts for sure.

    And I would certainly consider that if I were Colbert, but doubt anyone would offer that high a pick for him given the risk level.

  • NW86

    Sounds like something the Patriots would do.
    Then again, being on the other side of the trade and grabbing MB for a 2nd rounder and turning him into Randy Moss ALSO sounds like a Patriots thing to do.

  • PaeperCup

    shades of randy moss. A lot of the comparisons came due to their lanky frame + speed combination.

  • PaeperCup

    Hey that’s what people want right?

    IF they traded with the Patriots though, I think I would give up on football.

  • jconeoone C

    i agree. I think Ben will be an upgrade to every qb hes had combined

  • Wayne Padgett

    I love this signing. Welcome to Pittsburgh Mr. Hunter. I am sure he will perform better in Pittsburgh especially now he will have a QB and better receivers around him.

  • Steelag70

    Bold moves in FA, not by trading MB…

  • Cols714

    Why would they think that?

  • Petherson Silveira

    Thanks! This is very good information!

  • Matthew Marczi

    I would be surprised if they could fetch an equitable pick for a player who is eternally on the verge of banishment who isn’t exactly a superstar.

  • David C. Shaffer

    Really good post. I am surprised on how comparable the two WRs are in regard to the combine numbers and stats. Thanks for the info.

  • RickM

    It’s called looking for every possible positive nugget in the first free agent signing. Realistically, he’s been with 3 football teams before. Expecting major production is unrealistic. But as is stated, he’s got a much better QB now and a very respected positional coach. A cheap investment with some modest returns is possible.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Probably for the same reasons they give up draft picks for players that are about to be cut from other teams, ignorance.

  • Bobby Croom

    Having both these guys plus AB? The league will be terrified!!!

  • Shane Mitchell

    I want to see how much he signed for, I am speculating it wont be as cheap as most fans are thinking. Probably the difference between what we offered Logan Ryan and what he got from the Titans.

  • WreckIess

    “Further Investigation”. Whatever he wants really. I don’t know if he’d deliberately make them wait until the draft, but he’s going to delve deep and drag his feet while he does it. Bryant was supposed to have had his meeting by a couple days ago, but I haven’t heard anything about it.

  • RickM

    Buffalo fansites were suggesting the vet minimum when they discussed what he was worth as a FA. I just don’t see it being anything but fairly cheap. He has four years and three football teams in his past with, truth be told, not much production.

  • PaeperCup

    future superstar.

    Believing this, does this give the Steelers the upper hand with future contract negotiations?

  • Big White

    Not real positive reinforcement for Sammie Coates.

  • capehouse

    This is insurance against Sammie Coates and having to pass to practice squad players in the playoffs, more than it is about Bryant.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The Steelers under Colbert have never signed an outside free agent for a one-year deal that wasn’t for the minimum. If this bucks the trend, I highly doubt it’s by much.

  • PaeperCup

    Just another power move by King Goodell

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah I don’t see that at all either.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, at this point I would imagine they’ll let him play out the contract (if he can). At that point things could look awfully different provided that he stays clean and actually makes good on his potential. But as far as the viable window for trading him is concerned (which to me basically means this year), I can’t see them getting a second-rounder for him, for example, or even maybe a third. I would say I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t want him to be traded in the first place.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Thats what I am hoping, but we werent the only team interested in him and not his first visit in FA, I am thinking we offered more.

  • Almost scary how similar their numbers are. Makes me wonder, if we had drafted hunter, and he played for a QB like Ben, would he have had success like Bryant did? I remember taking a flyer on hunter in fantasy a few years back, but he never came close to exploding like Bryant did. What am I missing?

  • There you go bringing those pesky facts into this

  • EdJHJr

    I guess they don’t think both Bryant and Coates will play.


    I think Green is done.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Bryant has off the charts acceleration for someone his size to go along with his speed which made him one of the best WRs in the NFL at yards after catch, Hunter has long speed which is why he is a one trick pony similar to DHB. There really is no comparison between Martavis Bryant and Justin Hunter.
    Cover-2 defenses completely eliminate guys like Hunter, DHB and Sammie Coates from the game, because that safety is just waiting back there for their deep route, Martavis Bryant on the other hand can turn a 5 yard pass into an 80 yard TD in a hurry, much bigger threat for defenses to try to contain.

  • WreckIess

    Goodell Castro

  • Dofdmp


  • Dofdmp

    Or the fact Hunter has played more than Bryant & still doesn’t Best him

  • LucasY59

    one big difference is that Hunter got those stats over 4 seasons and Bryant did it in 2

    I think the QB situation could be a big part of it as well

    Bills had 3 FA WRs this yr and all 3 could be decent players, Hunter, Woods and Goodwin (think all were 2nd rd picks as well?) but the QB was not a guy that could use them (and Sammy Watkins) and so none of them had much success (in Tennessee it was even worse at QB, Locker? otherberger? im not sure who it was???)

    obviously Ben will be the best guy to throw him the ball by a longshot

  • I realize Bryant is the better receiver obviously. On paper they seem identical. The difference in acceleration makes sense as to why Bryant is premier and Hunter is bargain free agent.

  • LucasY59

    agreed. he will be hard to trade (and would be a bigger benefit as a big play threat to keep teams from giving too much extra coverage on Brown)

    better scenario is keep him, he plays well and then leaves and they get a 3rd rd comp (but even that is far from certain to happen)

  • LucasY59

    I really hope that most people dont get what they “want”

  • Shane Mitchell

    “Stop it with the non sense people go check my film out and compare it.” Martavis Bryant on twitter

  • James Rogers

    Yeah, I’m sure that Belichick is shaking in his boots.

  • Guillermo Garcia-Gomez

    I actually like the signing. Yes I wanted the team to be more active in FA, but he still adds value. The guy on 93.7 the fan was bashing it but it’s good insurance. If Bryant comes back and Coates returns to form, they can cut this guy if need be because he was so cheap. If one or both of those guys suffers a setback, you may still have the deep threat. Offense struggled last year once Coates fell apart. This is a win – win situation.

  • Shane Mitchell

    We will see no WR in FA has signed a veteran minimum contract in FA yet this year, if you want some more facts, players with worse stats than Hunter and less speed signed deals around 2-3 M a year, its not like we were the only team interested in this guy, the Patriots had him in for a visit. if Hunter signed a veteran minimum deal I will be extremely surprised.

  • Jamie Wilson

    Ill start off by saying i don’t think hes anywhere near the receiver Bryant is but i knew all three wrs came into the league known for inconsistent hands so i wanted to look up and compare the drop rate for each since being in the league.

    Coates- 22 receptions 5 drops, a drop rate of 22.7%
    Bryant- 76 receptions 12 drops, a drop rate of 15.8%
    Hunter- 78 receptions 5 drops, a drop rate of 6.4%

  • MC

    If he makes the 53 I bet he will have a better season than Wheaton did last year, so they’ve upgraded, and we’ll get a comp pick next year.