This should be a very interesting offseason for Martavis Bryant, the 2014 fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers who is technically heading into his fourth season, and the final year of his rookie contract.
The 6’4” target spent a good chunk of the middle of last season quietly, and then not so quietly, playing the role of malcontent, to the point that it resulted in him being benched for a game by Mike Tomlin due to his handling of himself on social media.
After things blew up, he talked openly with select reporters about his feelings about his situation and how he either wanted a bigger role or to be moved. But he quieted down after the trade deadline passed and he was not dealt.
Why he did make one late-season comment to the effect of letting the offseason chips fall where they may, he offered a different tune after the season was over. Even players who strongly suspect they may be playing somewhere else in a short amount of time, it should be noted, do still manage to say that they “want to come back”.
Bryant spoke at his locker after Sunday’s loss essentially saying that. But he also added a key piece of information. “I don’t feel like starting the chemistry all over again”, he said. And I think that’s a big part of the equation should he play through his rookie contract in Pittsburgh.
It is understandable that the season was tumultuous for Bryant. He was out of football for a year and had limited contact at best with what at the time must have felt like his former teammates. He was bogged down by the reinstatement process throughout the offseason that limited his ability to work with his teammates, as well.
It was frequent during the year that he seemed to struggle being on the same page with the offense and with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, even if the effort was there. But things did take a turn for the better following the bye week, and especially late in the season.
What he was best known for in his first four seasons was his ability to get behind a defense and track the deep ball. That was almost non-existent early in the year, catching only one such pass in Week Two. But he caught three passes on deep balls over the final four weeks, culminating in a 36-yard touchdown pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ secondary that helped make it a game at halftime.
Is he saying the right things, or is he thinking them? Have the trials of the season opened his eyes, understanding that there is a road ahead, albeit of tough one?
Bryant should enter the 2018 season hungry to compete for playing time and targets with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and it sounds as though that is where his head is. “All I can do is get better this offseason, come back in OTAs and show them that I deserve more”, he said.
“It’s a long offseason, got a lot of work to do. The work will be done and get better next year”.