2017 Midseason Player Evaluations: WR Martavis Bryant

With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.

The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.

The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.

Player: Martavis Bryant, WR

It doesn’t even feel appropriate to be evaluating Martavis Bryant in this spot. I generally try to do these evaluations in a loose order, starting with the quarterback and then usually moving on to the running back and then the top two wide receivers.

But has Bryant really been a top two receivers for the Steelers this season? Not in more than a game or two. And there are many—including members of the locker room—who seem pretty sure that they will still need him to be that this season in they have hopes of winning the Super Bowl.

But let’s back up a moment here and recount his story just a bit. He spent the 2015 season out of football, suspended over drug usage. He worked himself into fantastic shape, even trained on his own, and seemed to say all the right things at the right time along the way—except when he got on his phone.

And I really don’t even want to talk about that. I just want to talk about what has been going on on the field. And to date, he really hasn’t been the same player he was in his first two seasons. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the same player, either, and there’s no disputing that’s been hurting his contributions as well. But it’s undeniable that Bryant’s role in his own struggles is significant.

He has made some quality plays this year, including contested catches, that keep the mouth watering over what he could theoretically bring to the table. But he’s also dropped passes, slowed on routes, and struggled to be on the same page, even failing to look back in time to track a well-placed deep ball.

In the meantime, he’s grown disgruntled with his role and his lack of production as the rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster, has grown and taken on more tasks, often seeing even more playing time because of his versatility both outside and in the slot, as well as in a blocking capacity.

Bryant finished out the first half of the season benched for disciplinary reasons after airing his grievances, ending a tumultuous couple of months. Here’s to hoping that the second half of the year brings something new to the table. Or maybe something older…say, with a 2015 vintage.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • PittShawnC

    I can’t remember a local athlete ever being talked about so much for doing so little.

    But, “potential”

  • Steeler Nation!

    We need him to reestablish himself as a threat. Its part scheme, part Ben, but mostly on Bryant himself. There’s no way you can give all credit to Brown and JuJu for doing what they’ve done and all blame on Ben and Haley for Bryant being largely invisible. Even our TEs, as underwhelming as they are, are getting targets with mixed results. There is no question though, that we need Bryant’s explosive 2014-2015 type play to put us over the top.

  • joe triplehorns

    This is what I’ve seen. Last few games that he played in we test him and get him the ball early. Then Big Ben won’t look his way again. Because Ben watches him run directly into a tackle,instead of hitting a hole. He’s a selfish immature cry baby. Always worried he’s better than someone else,when he should be worried about what he can do for his team with his next opportunity. We have to cut this immature punk asap! He belongs on a team that has many selfish stat seeking players…like the browns. Maybe browns would give us a 7th round pick for him and he can be a loser on a loser team. Sorry browns,but you know who you are.

  • Chris92021

    Midseason grade for Martavis Bryant: F. It was a C-/D until he decided he was going to be stupid and go on social media to “talk to the fans”, which never ends well. I for one still have hopes for Bryant to become a bigger part of our offense and that he can help us become an elite team that we are capable of being. However, like Mike Tomlin said, “I doubt it. We’ll see.”

  • NCSteel

    Saw some stats last week on MB and his targets this year. I do not have them in front of
    me to pull from but it seems that his target share was not as big a problem as his lack of production.
    Your story is dead spot on.
    Both he AND Ben may have had a hand in that. The takeaway I remember having after viewing those target stats is that his complaining was kinda baseless.
    It was more frustration stemming from lack of production. Point a finger somewhere kind of thing. In any case, hope you enjoyed your crow while watching Ju Ju do his thing, now lets get back to work young man and turn those targets into points, long spectacular points !

  • ThatGuy

    36 Targets – 18 receptions

  • ThatGuy

    He looks slow which could be the extra muscle but also he looks weaker, can’t break a tackle to save his life.

  • pittfan

    +1/2. I am going to have faith in Martay after the break, that he will turn it around, Ben too!

  • pittfan

    Sorry dude but, you earned an F primarily for disrupting class. HOWEVER, you will turn it around with an A+ second half and bring your final up to a C.

  • walter

    He doesnt look like the same player but he could be having the same problems that Bell was having just worse case of it.

  • francesco

    Can’t fault MB if the QB throws it high or low or off wrong shoulder or with a bounce. With a better QB he would be graded an A…with Ben he is a B- at this midpoint.
    I will not be surprised if Ben plays better that MB’s grade will be better.

  • NCSteel

    Thats right that guy (LOL)
    It was 36 targets.
    Seemed respectable for a deep threat guy.

  • JNick

    That’s wrong. Potential is something there we haven’t seen. He has shown in previous stretches that he can’t be covered. For whatever reasons the first half of this season, he’s been quiet (on field) and relatively ineffective. We know he has the ability to be better, it’s not potential at this point.

  • PittShawnC

    In 68% (19) of the 28 regular season games he’s played, he has less than 50yds receiving. In 43% (12) of the 28 regular season games he’s played, he as less than 31yds receiving. “He’s been quiet” the majority of his career.

    “We haven’t seen” him live up to his potential of consistently contributing in any productive way to our offense in his almost four year professional career

  • falconsaftey43

    I think a lot of that is due to him being the second option at best. Heck Hines Ward had 48% and 27% of his games under those marks and he was the primary guy most of his career. Not sure you’re going to find many #2 WR that’s consistently putting up numbers every game.

  • Ed Smith

    Didn’t anyone read Alex K’s article on Bryant’s lack of impact? Yes he’s had his hand in some of it but my take-away from Mr Kozora’s Analysis was that HALEY was the main culprit – the positions, formations and play calling have not been designed to really utilize him. He’s often the weak side option that gets late looks. Haley get MB in the Gameplan!!

  • mrallnite111 .

    It’s illogical to grade any of the receivers while this version of Benjamin is at the Helm. An to all of those whom will find my comment offensive, I ask, did Benjamin 1st throw of the Detroit game, take the scenic route to JuJu hands ?
    Secondly should receiver have to slow down,or stop for passes?

  • Doug McFee

    I’m totally over Bryant.

  • PittShawnC

    Well if Ward is your #1, does that make Burress, Holmes and Wallace #2’s?
    Burress: 47% and 31%
    Holmes: 35% and 27%
    Wallace: 35% and 21%

    All coexisted with Ward. None including Hines even comes CLOSE to the almost 70% of games with less than 50yds of receiving MB has.

  • francesco

    Steelers are running more now with LBell. As well Ben has been checking down to LBell under Haley while in the past under Arians he hardly did so. So I believe Ben is throwing less often to his #2WR.

  • JNick

    I never said he was going to be a consistent player. I don’t believe he ever showed that in college. What he showed early was an explosive player who could break a game wide open. Your argument is against a point I simply didnt make.

  • ilamarca

    F-

  • PittShawnC

    I think you should look up the definition of “potential”

  • joe triplehorns

    I concur with everything…almost. If bryant starts,then put him in the slot where he will draw the defenses 3rd best DB. If he proves in 2 games he can be productive in the slot we keep him. If he flops against those DB’s then he isn’t trying and I will see him as worthless. If he’s good at it then maybe Steelers try to get him a mediocre contract to be #3 WR. Juju’s #2!!!

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    The starting job is toast. The kid brings RELIABLE and his idea of drama is playing Hide ‘N’ Seek and a stolen bicycle hunt — neither likely to bring frequent suspensions from the league. Good luck getting him out of that job in under fifteen years and ten Pro-Bowls. You know it’s bad when the kid without the driver’s license is more mature.

    Moving forward, slot looks like two dogs — one bone. Despite what his ‘people’ may tell him, I doubt Eli’ s going to roll over and just hand it to him, like it’s his birthright.

    Frankly, neither has been the poster boy for RELIABILITY! Both need to step it up, because next year’s another draft.

  • JNick

    He’s never shown to be a consistent WR. I didn’t argue that or even say that. What we are looking for now is the WR Martavis Bryant was his first 2 years in the league. Looking for the player he was, is not looking for potential.
    Is that clear enough for you ShawnC? Or do you want to argue something else I didn’t say?

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    According to your logic and by your standard then every receiver not named Brown has been quiet their entire careers. That’s what happens in the case of brown when you have a quarterback constantly staring you down and forcing balls in your direction. Imagine what Bryant would do if he had a quarterback throw him 70 to 80% of the balls constantly forcing balls into double and triple coverage.

  • PittShawnC

    Me: But, “potential”
    You: That’s wrong. Potential is something there we haven’t seen

    Again, I encourage you to look up the definition

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    And there’s never been a number one receiver like brown who literally gets 7 out of every 10 passes. Many of which shouldn’t even be thrown in his direction but are thrown anyway. Then they give Roethlisberger another excuse by saying he needs a security blanket like a TE or a Heath Miller. Which is amazing to read when you notice the over-reliance on Brown who is nothing if not a security blanket.

  • PittShawnC

    I don’t think they’re running more at all now, but that’s also league wide, not just Pit.
    JuJu is on pace for about 850yds receiving, not a bad season for a #2

  • JNick

    Apparently it’s not clear enough for you.
    Sorry Shawn. I’m just not able to dumb it down anymore.

    ETA: Maybe you should read my whole post and understand what I said, not just 9 words. But maybe that is simply asking too, too much. Context is important Shawn.

  • PittShawnC

    Heyyyyy, there it is. Took someone long enough to blame AB!

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Bingo!! besides Bryant isn’t stupid. He’s already wasted a year on a useless suspension. He’s well aware of an athlete’s window in general especially one who’s wasted a year. He only has so much time to make a name, get money & make history. He’s not about to allow them to let him waste away. Hell yeah he should complain. And the more things stay the same, eg. bad offensive production, lack of Red Zone production, lack of 3rd down efficiency, then he needs to complain even more until they do something differently or improve which would be to use him more like he supposed to be used in a proper schematic.

  • PittShawnC

    More like 30-35% but I get ya, blame Brown, blame Brown! It’s all AB’s fault!

  • 太阳三联

    Can you change ‘drug usage’ to smoking marijuana. Not a drug and IDGAF bout the no fun leagues lable

  • 太阳三联

    I think MB problem is route selection and Ben’s decision making. I think he could kill em all day with quick slants and posts

  • 太阳三联

    Not to mention put on film short/medium passes to force em to close in a bit then you take the top off em then force em back into playing 10yrds off.. kill em some more with 12yard slants

  • francesco

    Yep we are in agreement on this.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The goal is to win, not to get Bryant statistics.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Of course it’s a drug. Alcohol is a drug, too.

  • Alan Tman

    The final is always worth more than the midterm, so it’s a B. Lol

  • pittfan

    Check! Plus it will include the Super Bowl win!

  • Rick McClelland

    Not drinking the Martavis Cool-Aid over here either.

  • Rick McClelland

    Not pulling them in. Effort seems lost on getting under those balls. Ben throws it far enough that the defender can’t get it, but MB has lost a step and he cannot get it either.

  • Ralph Wagner

    On the first play of the day, against the Bears from the 25, Roethlisberger lofted a deep
    pass toward Martavis Bryant, who broke open free of the lone defender
    guarding him. The pass glanced off the fingertips of Bryant’s
    outstretched arms at the Bears’ 32.
    If that pass is caught we fans wouldn’t be having these conversations. Also Roethlisberger would have more confidence in Bryant a a receiver. Jut sayin.

    Go Steelers

  • Steeler Nation!

    Bryant is at best a D grade at this point. Ben’s grade a C that has been hurt by Bryant being terrible. If Ben has been so bad, why is it that Brown is still piling up big numbers, JuJu is thriving, Bell is doing his thing, and our JV TEs can get in on the action? Bryant has to be willing and able to run something besides 9 routes and catch the ball. We need him to step up, but he hasn’t done chit.

  • francesco

    Its the chicken and the egg catch22 situation. MB has played well as decoy attracting double coverage while allowing AB to roam around. Ben cannot read beyond his first option and so AB is getting the bulk of the throws. JuJu plays a completly different position being as he is a slot receiver. When Ben gets better at distributing the ball MB will get results. MB cannot get any better if Ben doesn’t.

  • Steeler Nation!

    But everyone else is getting balls thrown their way. Eli and Vance have had the oppportunity to drop TDs. JuJu is thriving. Bell is getting his norm. So it isn’t just AB. I agree that when there is a safety over the top of Bryant is taking away the deep ball, and opens up the run and Bens other options. But he has to be willing to work underneath the S and CATCH the ball. He hasn’t exactly shown a that he can do that consistently. It’s on him.

  • francesco

    We need to ask Ben if he is willing to throw to MB underneath the safety. Ben is not that great in throwing it in a tight window. He will sometimes take his chances with AB ( see interception in Lions game) but not with others it seems. You have to be really open for Ben to throw it to you. Also have you seen MB drop passes in the endzone? They don’t even put MB on the field when in the redzone?!

  • Steeler Nation!

    Did you see the TD he threw to AB vs Bengals? Pretty tight window. Ben doesn’t have the confidence that Bryant will compete for the ball and make the catch. That’s why AB gets those balls. And why JuJu will get the looks. Or Jesse. Eli is below average athletically for the position, but he will compete to make plays. MB has to get better. He has a lot of potential, but his game has never been complete.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I would like to see him on the field in the red zone myself. But that’s a bad sign for him that he’s not already on the field getting those targets down there. Thats not a Ben decision, it’s a Tomlin- Haley decision. Shows how little confidence anyone has in him.

  • francesco

    You can tell someone to trust you but until they do how can you prove yourself.
    Yes i agree that perhaps Ben and MB are lacking chemistry right now but it will take two to tango. Ben being the QB and leader of this team making over 20 Million per year has to work at it with MB who makes only 500k.

  • francesco

    I don’t think its because they feel MB is not good in the redzone. I think its just that Haley prefers an extra TE on the field for blocking purposes. But the reality is that the Steelers are not good in the redzone as things stand right now and you can’t blame MB. So who are you going to blame?

  • Alan Tman

    That’s exactly what I think. Let’s get it!!!

  • Steeler Nation!

    I don’t think the salary has anything to do with it. He learned a long time ago that he could trust AB. He’s leaned to trust JJSS, JJ, LB, even Eli during the stretch last year. No doubt Ben can play better than he has. But almost all this lies on Bryant. He has been the biggest disappointment for 2 years running.

  • 太阳三联

    Man you borderline retarded to think that is a drug. Scientifically proven to be a medicine. Get outta here with that bullshit.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Medicines are drugs. Somebody being a drug doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Also please don’t go around calling things “retarded”.

  • 太阳三联

    No opiates and pills are drugs not medicine. Marijuana is medicine. So like I said you should change cus it sounds legitimately retarded.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t think you know what several of the words you’re using mean. Start out by googling the word ‘drug’ and then get back to me if you wish.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    This is anything but blaming Brown. Brown is blameless completely blameless. That man is a sacred cow on that offense. And rightly so. AB definitely deserves MOST of what he gets but not all of it. This is to say that if Roethlisberger were actually a true distributor and good at Distributing then they all would flourish but he’s not because he over relies on Brown which explains why a few other receivers have dropped off or have looked less than stellar

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    I see it apparently went right past you. Right past your head. I just threw a pass in your direction but you fail to catch it. it’s not about AB so much but rather more about the quarterback who over relies on Brown. If anything Brown is the one receiver who is best at catching all those badly thrown balls from Roethlisberger. Brown is the best bad ball catcher they have.