Watch: Why Martavis Bryant Isn’t Involved In The Steelers’ Offense (And Why It’s Not All His Fault)

Considering he’s been the focal point of the week, we’re talking Martavis Bryant in this week’s talk to the tape. We’re looking at his play on the field and why he didn’t see the ball often in Sunday’s win over the Bengals. We look at how he’s been used and how often he’s really getting open with some solutions at the end.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below.

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.

  • srdan

    Thanks Alex.

    Martavis will not be the first read in this offense (generally). And Ben is just now starting to read beyond his first one. Also, Bens deep ball is not what it once was, I think we can admit that. Those two things will deeply impact Bryants output. However, his influence can be seen with the safety being put on top of him.

    I can understand his frustration, but his method of venting is questionable. Like most people his age, he needs coping mechanisms, and the NFL has taken his primary away.

  • Jason Vancil

    Great work Alex. Brings clarity to MB situation.

  • SwagDaddy330

    “he needs coping mechanisms, and the NFL has taken his primary away.”


  • steeltown

    Of course it would be great to get him more involved. It would be great to get Conner more involved and Eli Rogers and Jesse James on and on… but, the game plan is the game plan. Right now, we need to be run heavy and right now AB is the best player on the field. So, everyone else will be limited.

    I keep thinking about the kind of Offensive players that I truly enjoy watching play and rooting for and those are guys like Heath Miller, guys like Rosie Nix, Villanueva, AB and now JuJu. Hardworking, team first guys. I don’t think Bryant fits in this category, so I am no longer upset at the notion of him wearing another uniform in the near future.

  • Dofdmp

    That’s actually pretty true..Recovery is Hard.

  • Kareem Daniels

    Ben is not doing a good job of reading the whole field. Haley is recognizing that and only giving him one side of the field to read. Bryant isn’t handling it well. Steelers need to get Bryant, James and Grimblr involved in the red zone

  • Jay

    THANKS Alex for looking into this, my only disagreement with this is, on that deep pass, Ben clearly throws bad ball to his outside shoulder and to me saying Bryant should’ve looked back and tracked the ball is a bad excuse or justifications for throwing a bad pass. He should’ve led Bryant inside since he had inside leverage on the corner! His deep ball has been bad this year! The pass to AB that’s got the interference call was way overthrown!

  • falconsaftey43

    great breakdown. Now the question is, what should or shouldn’t be done.

    1). Leave it as is, Bryant is drawing two guys in coverage consistently and it opens up everyone else. You want to get AB the ball and this helps that. Bryant just needs to accept his role as decoy that’s only targeted if they stop respecting him as a threat.

    2). Switch more often between Bryant and AB as to who is the isolated WR. AB will draw double coverage just like Bryant, so Bryant can get open more throughout the game too. More of an even split between the two primary WRs.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Oooooh! Haven’t watched, but I can’t wait! Been looking forward to this!

  • PaeperCup

    On Ben’s deep ball, last year we couldn’t stop complaining about all his throws falling short. Heck it cost Sammie his job because he wasn’t ever good at challenging those types of catches. This year everything is sailing long….overcompensating?

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Nice work Alex. If I can make a suggestion you should be doing more of these each week. I am sure there are time limitations so maybe 1 or 2 less articles and more of these breakdowns. You make them easy to follow and offer detailed explanations and it is a good way for fans to understand things they may not pick up on in real time.

    Truthfully I am not sure it matters which position or player you choose to explore because these are always good quality from you.

  • Intense Camel

    Thank you.

  • Sdale

    Alex, thanks so much for doing this. Exactly what I was looking for. I wonder why they don’t run more slants for Bryant out of that X spot. With the DBs clearly playing very deep, it would see like an ideal opportunity for a slant or even post, at least against that 2 deep look…it looked like there were a lot of holes in the middle of that zone.

  • Sdale

    I’ve been wondering the same thing. It’s not just his deep balls…in the games this year where he’s been really bad, he’s been throwing high all the time as well.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Everyone else in the league can cope without it apparently. It’s time he figures out an alternative method.

  • T. Heflin

    From this video all I see is that Ben sucks! His deep was off to AB on the PI call and poor Martavis! I’mma throw it out there and you go get it? I can do that!!! Throw it on his inside shoulder, give the Martavis a chance at least! Lasts years deep balls was under thrown, this year they going where ever! If I ain’t no any better I would think Landry Jones been playing this whole time. Ben skills are diminishing and the only one who’s not suffering from it is AB! We’re one AB injury away from having a non existent offense!

  • Thomas

    I’d be interested to see this in comparison with the year when he was extremely successful.
    I’m assuming they were still lining him up as an isolated X back then too…more screens his way for sure but based on what we’ve seen this year I’m not big on them doing more of that.
    I will admit that in my total homerism I invested BIG to aquire him in fantasy thinking the mental stuff was behind him and I am eating it bigtime X_X

  • srdan

    lol man, the whole league gets high. I’d be willing to bet it’s over 75%. It’s all about who gets caught.

  • Paddy

    Bryant has forgotten everything he did two seasons ago. His effort & technique is poor

  • francesco

    I can make a case that there are many individualists than team players in every team. And what makes you think that MB is not hardworking?

  • francesco

    What do you know about technique?

  • francesco

    In option #2 AB will protest with another gatorade incident.

  • Paddy

    More than you that’s for sure

  • francesco

    The suspense is killing me!

  • J.

    Just asking because I dont know but on the plays when it is obvious Bryant will not be involved in the play how hard does he go at it? By that I mean does he jog on plays where he knows the ball is not going to come to him or does he sell it? Is he down the field hammering CB when its time to block or is he not engaging. If he is not doing those things that could be why JuJu is seeing a rise in snap counts. I do not get to see many of the games so like I said I dont know if he doing those things or not. As I said just asking because I dont know.

  • nutty32

    That’s exactly the part I don’t understand about 10. I too had MB with 1000 yards+ and double digit TDs preseason, but from watching the games nothing unusual is really happening; nothing special for MB to complain about. He comes back from suspension and expects some kind of “Randy Ratio?” It’s just baffling what MB was expecting. It has been said that MB (by him & others) doesn’t really understand football; all he knows is run the route & catch the ball. Hope he wises up, soon maybe hit the film room or at least be mature enough to stay quiet.

  • melblount

    Alex, as great as your analysis appears to be, there are inherent problems with it that are virtually impossible for you to overcome.

    Take the play that was thrown to MB that Ben explained the other day. Without Ben’s explanation of what MB did incorrectly – did not look back at 10/12 yards – you (and the rest of us) would have NO IDEA what went right or wrong on that play, why it failed, and who, if anybody, was to blame/credit for its failure. With Ben’s explanation, it is very easy to analyze the play as Ben did, and correctly identify the key issue – MB messed up on his attention to details. That error in large part resulted in it having little chance for success and ultimately failing.

    Expand that notion to many of the other plays that you broke down as best you could. You, and most likely anybody who has not played or coached college or professional football, and perhaps anybody not directly involved with the Steelers playbook, can really only evaluate what they saw/think they saw.

    For example, on any of the plays that you analyzed in which MB was lined up in a certain spot, and the coverage was a certain way, and you concluded there was no way MB was going to get open or get the ball on that play, how do you know with any reasonable certainty if (1) MB lined up in the right spot, (2) MB was supposed to go in motion but did not, (3) MB ran the right or wrong route, or any of a host of other variables?

    Granted, you see things far better than most of us, but have you ever had your hands on a Steelers playbook, been in a Steelers game planning meeting, or in the huddle as the play was called and heard exactly what Ben said?

    It would be interesting to hear Ben or Haley break down all of the plays that you did, and hear what they said about each of them. Ben publicly analyzed ONE of them and it shed a light on that play that I can’t imagine you or any other person not intimately involved with the play would have known. That one key piece of information was critical to ANYBODY out here in the cheap seats being able to analyze it correctly.

    If you think I’m out of bounds here, I kindly ask you to think back to what your thoughts were on the deep pass play to MB BEFORE you heard Ben’s intimate explanation of it. What was your take on the play BEFORE you knew the FACTS about it? How did your LIVE or after TV replay take differ from your take AFTER knowing the FACTS? If both takes were exactly the same, that is, BEFORE Ben’s explanation you KNEW MB goofed by not looking back at 10/12 yards, then more power to you and please disregard this post.

  • nutty32

    I don’t watch many full games in the all 22 angle, but do pay attention to what is happening off ball, especially on replays. Yet to notice an instance where MB was dogging it off ball.

  • nutty32

    Agree 100% with your sentiments, but does that really matter in terms of what AK is doing here (why MB is not getting the ball v. why plays aren’t successful when indeed targeted)? AK is simply showing he’s covered by scheme if not by his man.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah, I mean, that might have been at play as well but if Bryant looks back, he has a shot to readjust his route and get to the ball.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yup, those are the options. I would like to see more of that second though. There’s a balance to be had.

  • Alex Kozora

    Ok, I’ll try to!

  • Alex Kozora

    Sorry about that francesco. That user is now banned.

  • Alex Kozora

    His effort’s been fine. Like I said, if you didn’t follow the drama, you wouldn’t suspect there was a problem.

  • Alex Kozora

    No, you’re not out of bounds. That is one of the problems with the armchair analysis. We’re not going to 100% know everything. All we can take are educated guesses. I get it. But that’s true of anything. So either we can try to analyze everything or analyze nothing. And I at least enjoy taking a stab at it and opening up the dialogue.

  • melblount


    Thanks for your reply.

    “All we can take are educated guesses.”
    And your educated guesses are far better than most.

    “So either we can try to analyze everything or analyze nothing.”
    I just wanted to add a footnote to TRY to be sure that posters/readers understand the inherent problems with anybody’s analysis other than say Ben’s, Haley’s or somebody truly in the know of what was supposed to happen, and what did happen on these plays.

    “And I at least enjoy taking a stab at it and opening up the dialogue.”
    Your enjoyment and presentation of it are godsends to us all. Please keep up the great work.

    If I could indulge you a bit further, would you mind answering the question I kind of posed in my post about what your take was LIVE on the failed bomb versus what we know now about the play from Ben.


  • melblount

    My primary purpose was to point up that Alex has presented in awesome detail what APPEARS to be the case on these plays and appearances are many times deceiving, especially to those of us in the cheap seats who have never played a down of NFL football.

    The failed bomb play is the simplest example of that.

    Stated differently and rhetorically, what else do we NOT know about ALL of the other plays that would likely affect what we THINK we now know?

    BTW, I differ greatly on Alex’s analysis of the AB PI play. MB looked WIDE OPEN to me on that play and IMO likely should have been targeted.

  • steeltown

    Ok, so im sure most players on most Teams are hardworking. I guess I more mean people that are Team first, accountable and are selfless

  • EdJHJr

    Always good film and discussiom

  • #7

    I’m not sure if this is a sarcastic post ala “Generic Steelers Fan” or you’re just an illiterate

  • pittfan

    Alex over the years has done more in depth analysis of Steeler football than anyone I know. And yet, as you point out, he’s not in the huddle, team meetings, and doesn’t have a playbook. Having said that, you’d understand why I find it hilarious we have some many fans attributing blame to Haley, Ben, Tomlin, et al, and calling for their jobs by simply looking at what is provided by a live broadcast. I think Matthew called it “results based criticism” and he’s exactly right. I really cracks me up.

  • pittfan

    where’s my poster? lol

  • Sammacdon

    This is oversimplified, but if Bryant and Brown are doubled, the rest of the team is spotted a 9 on 7. I know Bell has played really well, but if that’s the case shouldn’t he be running for 300 yards a game and averaging 8 yards per carry? If they are doubling two receivers, JuJu should have 10 catches a game.

  • francesco

    The coaches are not about the team and letting everyone participate in the success of the team. Their primary concern is to keep their jobs. They care about winning only because they are thinking of themselves.
    The more you win the longer you keep your job.

  • PaeperCup

    seems like a which came first chicken or the egg scenario. Is Ben not going through his reads because Haley’s offense is designed to focus on one side, or are Haley’s plays designed so Ben doesn’t have to go through the reads. I might assume the former, because we haven’t seen a different offense from the beginning of the season, meaning Haley hasn’t adjusted anything to accommodate anyone…well except Bell.

  • PaeperCup

    Deep balls toward the sideline are not uncommon. I won’t deny that it’s not a great throw, but is that because of where it landed or because or where Bryant ended up. Makes you wonder how many good throws were actually throws like this one where the WR adjusts early and it looks as if it were drawn up that way.

    This particular throw is not an easy one to make, because the coverage is tight, so throwing close to the sideline isn’t a bad spot for it…..

  • PaeperCup

    I love this. You are absolutely right. It is easy for us armchair QBs to rip apart a play a player a coach, but honestly there is so much going on on any given play that there is more often than not a reasonable explanation as to why things happened the way they did, good or bad. These are the worlds best, they aren’t out there just winging it.

    And as always, in hindsight vision is always 20-20

  • Michael Conrad

    Good job Alex. I never though it was all MB. Its his roll in the offense and the design of the passing plays. I get it we are going to ride Bell and the running game and the defense to wins.

    The Steeler passing game could use a few more timing routes like Rogers and a few other QB’s use with great success.

    The Steeler beat KC and Ben had a ok game but Oakland killed KC with out routes and timing passes.

    Our WR’s were covered more by bad play calls and passing routes not used by the OC and Ben against KC and it happens to be the same every week. I say a lot of passing plays are not used by the steelers.

    I mean Copper and Crabtree are not better or faster then AB and MB but they ran the DB’s off and stopped on a dime and the ball was there. Look at the game if you get a chance. Crabtree runs 10 yards and stops the DB is playing him to go long. It was time after time. Copper did the same thing.

    I just think its a combo of Ben the OC and a desire to run more then pass and maybe running pass plays Ben likes. The lack of a TE is hurting the passing game . A TE to get down the middle would open up the outside. Pulling a safety from double coverage. Plus Gilbert has missed a bunch of games and he is very good at pass blocking.

    So I say its about scheme of the passing game and what Ben can do and wants to do and what Haley calls.

    I was pissed watching Oakland kill KC with out routes and stop routes.I was thinking why can’t we do that. Our WR’s are good enough.

    So to all who want to blame MB . Start watching other games and compare the passing game some teams have to ours. Do we measure up or is our game all about AB being the best WR in the game and is that enough.

  • Alex Kozora

    Absolutely, it’s an important point to address. But I also would hope an obvious one. We don’t have all the answers. That’s why we try to be transparent about it. That’s why he have pictures, show GIFs, offer the video. So people see what we see and then can make their own decisions.

    To your question, I really wasn’t sure what happened on the play. All I knew was that Bryant didn’t find the football. I definitely had no idea that he was supposed to look back at 10-12 yards like Ben explained.

  • dany

    And, even if he was the only one, that’s HIS coping mechanism, not anyone else’s. Just because someone else does something and it doesn’t work for you does not mean it won’t work for someone else. We have to think outside of our bubbles

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    Hahaha omg

  • dany

    No wonder I was so confused

  • T. Heflin

    Ben is that you? Are you pulling a Kevin Durant? If so….THROW BETTER BALLS!

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Thanks for doing these Alex!

  • ND_Steel

    Not much of a route tree for Bryant. No rub routes, crossing routes, slants…it’s “like hey MB, go deep”…one curl route and he was open. Even so, the play designs were effective in clearing out the safeties and opened thing up stuff underneath. Just don’t see anything designed to go his way because his only route was vertical.

  • ND_Steel

    Really? For what? Defending himself against a personal attack? Paddy simply stated his opinion. THAT USER has been a frequent flyer on the site, but you “ban” him? Disappointing…just jump in and ‘say play nice boys’ or delete the whole string if you must.

  • ND_Steel

    I agree, all he ran was clear out routes. He really wasn’t part of the game plan except for the one shot against quarters. Unless you count drawing double coverage from the safety part of the game plan, which is plausible given Bell’s success underneath.

  • ND_Steel

    Need to look how NE uses Hogan or something…and MB is so much more explosive than him.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Not necessarily, my guess is that 80% hit the chronic. The NFL methodology has loopholes in there testing for THC. Unless you are are Debo or in the program there are only 2 months to be concerned about…if not mistaken. As a former PO we didn’t test for it in PHX so the NFLPA should quietly use it as a chip much like Stern has suggested in the NBA

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Just your last line.. to your point, how can we know who the primary receiver was for that play? If ABs route is primary, and he’s open, it goes there.

  • StillersInThe6

    Gotta disagree with this…Jesse James, Conner, Eli, are NOT all-world freak athletes, ie. dynamic play-makers. This is the whole issue imo – you need to do a better job of including Martavis Bryant in your game plan because on any given play/Sunday he can take a screen/slant to the house ala Arizona.

  • StillersInThe6

    I think it’s quite presumptuous to think he could have gotten to that ball had he located it early – sure he would have had a shot, which is the name of the game at times, but it would have taken a spectacular over-the-shoulder grab with little separation on the corner (making it that much harder). Not saying Ben should shoulder 100% of the blame, but at least 50% imo.

  • StillersInThe6

    First of all, amazing video – I love this kind of analysis with the up-top camera view – cannot get enough of this, so kudos.

    Secondly, I’m just at a loss at the lack of addressing a huge concern (imo) from both you and most of this board (as evidenced by no comments here addressing this issue)…

    You kept saying it’s no one’s fault, not Haley, not Ben, etc. etc. I could not disagree more. Why are we treating MB like he’s some sort of 1 trick pony and can only run GO routes?? We’ve seen this guy take screens and slants for SPLASH plays. Heck, I know even Haley and co. believe this to a degree, otherwise they wouldn’t run WR reverses to him and try to get him in space. So really, there’s just no excuse for the video and gameplan you’ve highlighted (and excused). The whole point of frustration for me (and I imagine MB) is that you have this uber-talent mix of size, speed, agility, etc. that measures off the charts, and has even been proven to be effective at the NFL level to a degree, and yet you still cannot find ways to get him the ball?? That’s on Haley and Tomlin. It’s just a waste. The guy can be dynamic in space, we’ve seen that (ZONA always comes to mind) – find ways to get him the ball other than GO routes for god’s sake!

  • francesco

    Alex i appreciate looking out for all of us and censoring inappropriate and hurtful comments. That being said… i did not take this particular comment to heart. I don’t want Paddy to be banned forever.

  • Alex Kozora

    He told another user to go “kill yourself.” That’s an auto-ban. It’s not stating an opinion.

  • francesco

    Also there was no reason for Ben to throw it up there so soon. He could have held his throw a little longer as he wasn’t being pressured to the point where he had to get rid of it. Once MB looks back at Ben then Ben could have released the ball so as to be in perfect stride with the receiver (basket catch over the shoulder).

  • J.

    Thanks Alex

  • ND_Steel

    Ok, that’s never acceptable. Don’t see that, you must have deleted it. Again, I’d recommend deleting the entire string as you make it look like you banned him for saying “I know more than you” or something like that. I just find it very irritating that M Marczi gets into arguments with his commenters and uses his ability as a moderator to ‘win’ his arguments, like that’s even necessary. Guy enjoys his politics way too much.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes, it was deleted. If anyone wants to see the screenshot I took, they can. Matthew has never told someone to “kill themselves.” We let a lot of things fly in these comment section but that is not one of them.

  • walter

    What do you mean “Ben is just now starting to read beyond his first one.”? Ben has always been good at looking past his first read.

  • walter

    Potheads think everyone gets high because they tend to associate with other potheads. I know because i used to be in those circles.

  • walter

    Ben has always been good at his reads. I dont know who started this rumor here at the Depot but it seems to be contagious. Maybe you guys are thinking of Mark Malone? Ben can easily look to his second receiver and even a third. Why would he lose this ability when he has had it since his rookie year?

  • walter

    This is a great video explanation on why MB is not seeing more balls but what was different in 2015?

  • ND_Steel

    No, I believe you. Thanks. Matthew just tells you off or argues to no end then deletes your comment if he disagrees with you. I can’t send screen shots because of the deleting. But regardless, like I said, people appreciate that you moderate and respect others’ opinions.

  • Petherson Silveira

    That’s normal. A lot of #1 WRs in NFL play X-Receiver. And i can tell you, that´s the position fits Bryant best. Tall and Fast receivers play X almost all the time.
    I think Haley can altern his routes a little. Let him read if the comeback is a better option, let him read the MOF and do a Fade/Post based on that. Tight his aligment and with this you expand his possibilites of route. Call some backside slants and spots for him too. Call backside hitches when the CB is playing with cushion.

  • Kareem Daniels

    He hasn’t been this season. He has missed open receivers trying to force the ball to AB. If Bryant had a kept his mouth closed that’s what we would still be talking about.

  • Sdale

    Yeah, and it did clear some seam/underneath stuff for the TEs.

  • walter

    Every QB will miss receivers. But i did notice him forcing the ball to AB in the Lions game. Sometimes i cant blame him with all the dropped balls. He hit Hunter right in the hands. The announcer said something about forcing it to AB.. Sometimes you just gotta throw it to your best receiver, even if hes not open. Ben is not the best QB in the game but he is all we have. And i think with JuJu, he will be allright. I dont know if MB can help us this year.. We are still missing that reliable TE.