The 2017 regular season was not what Martavis Bryant hoped it would be. After returning from a year-long suspension, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-year wide receiver did not put up close to the sort of numbers that would satisfy the ambitions that he had for himself in his first season back on the field.
On the year, he did finish with 50 receptions, which matched his career high from 2015, but he did significant less with those receptions. He gained 765 yards in 2015, averaging 15.3 yards per catch. This year, he gained only 603 yards, averaging 12.1. He also had half as many touchdowns, down to three from six—seven, including a rushing touchdown.
But now he is returning to the postseason, where he left off before his suspension, and this more than anywhere is the time and place in which he has shone. In three postseason games, he had caught 19 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, adding another 90 yards on the ground on four rushing attempts.
Bryant had the Steelers’ lone touchdown during the 2014 Wildcard loss to the Baltimore Ravens in his rookie season, catching five passes for 61 yards in that one. He had five receptions for just 29 yards during the Wildcard Round a year later, but that included a spectacular, highlight-reel touchdown.
A week after that, in the loss to the Broncos in the Divisional Round, he went off for 154 yards on 10 receptions. He had a 40-yard run in the game after a 44-yard run in the game prior to that as well. He is averaging 111 yards from scrimmage per game so far.
So can he recapture the magic of the postseason, where he has played some of the best football of his still young career? While the stage itself is important—and it does help that he has been here before—the fact that he now has a full season’s worth of reps under his belt is the main factor here.
Bryant’s contributions and success have wavered throughout the year, but his production has leveled toward the end of the year, averaging around four catches for 60 yards per game and the occasional score.
While those are not electric numbers, they are key contributions for the third wide receiver on the depth chart behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. And with the latter two likely to spend a good deal of time occupying the time of A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, there will be opportunities for him, especially in the handful of snaps he will see in the slot.
The Jaguars have been vulnerable to the deep pass, and Bryant has been able to reassert himself in that regard. He had two catches on deep passes over the course of the final three games of the regular season, an area of the game that seemed to evaporate. A timely return to those sorts of plays would certainly be a welcome sight for the afternoon.