There’s no reason for me to bring up the never-ending story of how the Pittsburgh Steelers need a tall, athletic wide receiver. You know the whole thing as well as I do. It’s been discussed every year since Plaxico Burress left for the New York Giants but perhaps, and I stress, “perhaps,” the search may finally be over.
In the fourth round of this years draft, the Steelers chose Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant and initially most thought this was a nice pick but if he were really going to be this tall, athletic stud we’ve been waiting for then why wasn’t he a higher pick?
Truth is that Bryant had some issues at Clemson on and off the field but the young man thrived in his final season playing the ‘Robin’ to Sammy Watkins’ ‘Batman.’ Bryant probably clinched his chances of being drafted with an impressive performance in the Orange win over Ohio State.
Still, Bryant would enter training camp in Latrobe with a lot of questions hanging over him.
Could he handle the defensive backs of the NFL? Would he be able to translate his athleticism to the professional game? Could he handle the ‘on the fly’ mental adjustments necessary at this level? What about his ability to block?
Truth be told, the athleticism has translated just fine. He has made one outstanding catch after another during training camp and did the same in joint practices with this Buffalo Bills this week too.
Bryant making this roster is a foregone conclusion now. He is just too dangerous to not to have on the field at certain times and yes I’m looking at you red zone.
There is still much work to be done however. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has repeatedly been heard screaming at Bryant about coming back to the ball. This is something all great receivers do and the fact that Roethlisberger harps on him for this tells you that he thinks the potential is there.
His route-running needs work but that’s pretty common for all rookie receivers just like breaking press coverage is. In watching him in his first professional game last week in New York, the blocking needs a lot of work as well. A large portion of great blocking is desire and a willingness to do the dirty work. I didn’t see that from him but that doesn’t mean he can’t improve at it.
Randy Moss wasn’t exactly a great blocker either and he did pretty well.
If Bryant can also make the right sight adjustments and learn to read defenses in unison with his quarterback then the sky could ultimately be the limit. I’d like to see the experiment with him returning punts end too. He looks as comfortable back there as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
That aside, Bryant may finally be the answer to the question that has nagged at Steelers’ fans for years. He has all the tools to be Ben Roethlisberger’s tall, red zone threat and all that remains is for him to put them all together.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on Trib-Live Radio.
Picture courtesy AP.