What should the Pittsburgh Steelers expect from Martavis Bryant?


I’ve talked to a lot of Steelers fans about their team’s 2014 draft class. And from almost everyone I talked to, Steelers fans are thrilled about the selection of Martavis Bryant in the fourth round.

I think more people are excited to see this guy play than any other rookie not named Ryan Shazier.

Why is that?

Because there is so much unknown about Martavis Bryant and what is to be expected from him.

Fellow Pittsburgh native Sigmund Bloom made the best comparison for Martavis Bryant that I’ve seen. He has compared Bryant to an “Embryonic Justin Hunter,” and that makes a lot of sense.

When I watch both players in college, they were both better deep threat receivers than complete players, but their athleticism jumps off the screen. And if you take a look at both players college stats, you will see that they are actually very comparable:

martavis bryant chart 1

As you can see, Bryant and Hunter’s college stats are very similar (it should be noted that Justin Hunter tore his ACL in 2011 and that set him back some.) I would say right now as a receiver, Bryant is one full year behind where Hunter was coming into the 2013 NFL Draft – hence the “embryonic Justin Hunter” comparison.

If I were to add to that comparison, I would say that Bryant is a cross between Justin Hunter and New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill.

And that’s my biggest concern with Bryant.

Coming out of college, he is a much better athlete than football player. But don’t get me wrong, Martavis Bryant is one special athlete. Here he is compared to the aforementioned Hunter and Hill:

martavis bryant chart 2

At 6’4, 211 pounds, he is the receiver that Ben Roethlisberger has wanted since Plaxico Burress left.

They are looking to replace that big receiver that can get down field and make plays when Roethlisberger gets out of the pocket. Bryant showed he could do that at Clemson.

Martavis Bryant GIF 1

It will be up to Bryant and how much he cares about improving his game in the NFL. His coach at Clemson Dabo Swinney consistently criticized his work habits at Clemson and this makes me wonder how long it will take him to grasp the Steelers play book.

Bryant has very talented hands. He can snatch the ball out of mid-air and can make ridiculous catches with ease. But he struggles with his consistency with his hands. Here is his drop percentage compared to other wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft, via Greg Peshek:

As you can see, Bryant led the group with the highest drop rate in the draft. In fairness to him, he is probably the most raw of the group and a lot of his targets came down field. A lot of these drops come because of bad hand technique. He doesn’t do a great job at keeping his hands close together and a lot of balls go through his hands. Here’s an example of that:

Martavis Bryant GIF 2

You could argue that the defender may have been pulling on Bryant’s right arm some, but this kind of play happens a lot with him. He is a very raw player that needs time with a good receiver coach to develop. Luckily, he landed with one of the best in developing receivers in Todd Haley and he will certainly help him along.

So what should we expect from Bryant? I think we should be patient with his development because there is a lot of ability there, it just may take 2-3 years before we see it, if we ever do.

Bryant could develop into a premier deep threat in the NFL, but I feel like his game will always be somewhat limited due to him only being an “outside the hash-marks” player.

But the Steelers finally found their big, fast wide receiver they have wanted for some time. It should be fun to watch his development.

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The “unsung” Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker: Jack Ham

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