Martavis Bryant’s Presence Already Opening Up Antonio Brown

Martavis Bryant did not have a strong game on the box score in his 2017 debut, the first official game back since serving his year-long suspension. There was a drop, a screen pass where he didn’t go anywhere, and he appeared to slow up on one route downfield.

But the measure of a receiver’s presence doesn’t just come down to box score. The mere threat of him being out there, a 6’4 receiver who can fly, forces defenses to key in on him. And that opens up Antonio Brown on the opposite side of the field.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, Ben Roethlisberger pointed to one play in particular where Bryant’s presence freed Brown up.

“The pass interference they got when they grabbed AB at the last second,” Roethlisberger said via “As soon as the ball was snapped, the safety took off over to Martavis. So that opened up AB one-on-one.”

Looking at the play, the Browns were playing with a single high look and bracketing Bryant on the outside. To the top of the screen in the clip below, the cornerback is playing the underneath flat with the deep safety racing over to take away anything deep. That left Brown solo on the corner, a matchup that’s always worth testing out. Cornerback Jamar Taylor hooked AB’s arm, drawing the flag, resulting in a 41 yard play.

The Steelers scored plays later, the insurance they needed when the Browns made a 4th quarter push.

That may be another reason why the offense is gravitating towards four receiver sets, something Roethlisberger has praised since Sunday. Spread opposing secondaries thin and wait to get one-on-one matchups on your best receivers. It’ll be that much harder for teams to figure out how to slow Antonio Brown. So far, few have.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Jones

    Any reason they couldn’t have done this last year with Hey Bey? He’s got the speed, right? Did teams just not respect his ability to catch the ball like they do Martavis’?

  • Stas

    Right on – can’t catch. I think Bryant has a bit more length too so higher chance he’d come up with some contested catches.

  • falconsaftey43

    I like the play design for taking a shot. They showed single high safety all game, get it here, just run a 2 man route and throw to the side the safety isn’t on. Chances are good for a catch or PI.

  • John Noh

    Good! That’s exactly what all of us were hoping for. MB will get his catches and TDs. But if he can open up the field for AB, we really have something here. Wheaton, Hamilton, DHB, or Eli do not impose the threat MB does. That was patently clear last season with all the double teams Antonio received.

  • nutty32

    Give credit to Haley. 2nd & 8. He correctly anticipated a Greg Williams all out blitz (7 man pressure) and called a 2 man pattern & max protect. This play should be studied by the “we got out-coached” crowd.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    If you say so, Alex. Good to hear as Bryant seemed like a giant zero on first viewing.

  • PapaJuju

    The man missed over a year of football, and a good chunk of training camp. What did you expect?

  • srdan

    You bring up a valid point. Really what is the difference between him and sammie being out there? This is a production based league. If Bryant doesn’t catch one of those go routes for a td in the first 3 weeks, safeties will start cheating to AB again.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Hey Papa J.. I guess I expect that if a player is on the field on game day that they are ready to go and give the team the best chance to win at that position.

  • Anthony Barnes

    Are you JuJu Smith-Schuster’s dad?

  • PapaJuju

    No. Ha ha. I had this moniker far longer than he has been a Steeler.

  • Anthony Barnes

    Okay lol

  • falconsaftey43

    It was week one, whole passing game was a little off. Bryant got a bunch of bubble screens and one way over thrown deep ball. Had nice catch on a comeback. Let’s see how things go next couple weeks, I expect the whole offense will look better.

  • WB Tarleton

    Simple. The safety would have bracketed AB and left Sammie one on one and neither would have been open.

    If they start cheating towards AB, then Bryant will be open.

  • Christopher Saylor

    He only caught 25% of passes in camp. So I’m gonna say most teams are not gonna respect him.

  • Jeff McNeill

    Also, MB has much more ability after the catch to do damage.

  • Alan Tman

    Thank you for positive coverage. Now you don’t have to block me here too. Lol

  • SfSteeler

    and the missing safety audio track goes something like this, holy s#!t, gotta get the bleep over there!

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    Uh yeah, completely different caliber players.

  • ryan72384

    This is what AB didn’t have opposite him last year. Sammie made some big plays but a monster like Bryant with speed scares defenders. They know he must always be accounted for. He alters game plans. I was a huge Sammie supporter because he gave our offense a big play element but Martavis literally changes the way a defense has to defend our offense. As soon as he makes a couple big catches and regains that 2015 form it’s on. AB is going to have a huge year because of him.

  • RickM

    You’re being mostly fair. I don’t think we can expect mid-season form, but there’s no reason that we shouldn’t start to see more production out of him in the next few games. The shelf life for ‘he’s rusty’ is over with multiple exhibition games and a regular season game now behind him.

  • pittfan

    1 play? why didnt we see it till the 4th qtr? all those WR screens you’d look to be setting up Martay to run some verts after drawing them in…BWDIK?

  • pittfan

    BTW, Martay looked like a monster out there on the field, no lanky rook.

  • nutty32

    That’s one more play broken down than you’ve shown.
    There’s reasons for those scripted screens as Ben alluded to in today’s interview. You should also read/listen to Dale Lolly for your steelers msm coverage. He knows what he’s talking about and is fair minded.

  • Scunge

    I am curious what the Browns would have done if Hunter had been active and lined up in say the slot or on the outside with Brown lined up in the slot? Which deep threat would Peppers have have covered Bryant or Hunter? I bet the Browns DC was smiling when he learned that we deactivated Hunter for the game

  • NinjaMountie

    Lets say he’s rusty and at 85% of his skillset. Lets say his 85 is better than the next guys 100. There you go….you are both right. This is also what I think is actually happening.

  • Ken Krampert

    He may be the forgotten man right now, but Vance McDonald is going to do some damage in the deep middle of the field later in the year. Look how open the middle of the field is when Bryant and Brown run go routes. Eventually that will be money…..

  • razaard2

    The go route is not only about speed. It’s a combination of speed and being able to do other routes in order to keep the CB on their toes. If your only threat is the go, the CB will play it safe and it’ll never work.
    MB do the go as well as anyone, plus he is a big body for slant routes (despite shaky hands), a threat out of the screen game, and a capable player on most other routes. DHB is a one trick pony with shaky hands.
    Even Mike Wallace was good at at least two things, go and screen passes

  • John Phillips

    Still would’ve liked to Have kept Sammy, but we got a secondary guy in return so….

  • John Phillips

    Especially the OL

  • John Phillips

    Are you the original Crash from the old Trib forum?

  • Crashcrash777

    Some mysteries are better left unsolved ☻

  • RickM

    True. Especially when facing a D like Minnesota. Our O-line has to be on their “A” game.