If Martavis Bryant thought that his long road ‘back’ would end with his reinstatement, then the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver was clearly mistaken. While many seemed to take as a given that the third-year player would simply step back into the lineup and pick up where he left off, the road ‘back’ has been much longer and more strenuous than could have been hoped for.
After scoring 15 touchdowns in his first 21 games, Bryant has just one touchdown in nine games this season, and that came all the way back in game two, the only game this year in which he has had at least 50 yards receiving. He caught three passes for 91 yards then, 51 of which came on one catch.
But the year has gone nothing like that since. With only six games remaining, he has just 23 receptions for 306 yards, and the deep threat is averaging only 13.3 yards per reception. While not all of that can be put on his shoulders, there is a reason that he is not seeing a starter’s level of work.
It’s not easy to be out of the game—and I mean entirely out of the game, with minimal contact from anybody in your football life—and even more difficult to be expected to slide back into where you were prior to your unceremonious exit.
That is why Bryant has seemingly realized in recent weeks. After blowing up and taking his frustrations out on social media, an act that saw him demoted to inactive status for a game, he has had a cooler head and said the right things.
With the trade deadline having come and gone and nothing left for him to do but just to keep working at the game, he has done so, albeit perhaps later in the game than he should have. “I think the main part with me was, I wanted to come back and have instant success, but it didn’t work out like that”, he admitted.
“Now”, he told Mike Prisuta, “it’s about being patient and just going out and having fun with it, and just let everything fall into place”. He said that he is not feeling pressure to perform. “All I want to do is win. As long as we’re winning, we’re having fun doing it, what pressure do I have?”, he asked.
He realizes now that “you can’t fight the process”, saying that “you just have to be willing to get better”. He has had talks with head coach Mike Tomlin about that, and said, “he knows I’m not going to fight the process”, and that “he knew it wasn’t going to be easy for me”.
Clearly, it had not been easy for him, even while he seemed to put on the public face of the good soldier around the team, until it just blew up. Now, is it out of his system, or is he just playing the good soldier again? Or a bit of both?
Either way, he has made contributions in the past two games since his return from discipline. He had a big third-down conversion on the game-winning drive last Sunday, and he had a fumble recovery at the end of the first half on Thursday after Antonio Brown had the ball stripped. He has five catches for 72 yards in those two games.