Well, that was nice while it lasted.
When JuJu Smith-Schuster was injured during the Sunday Night Football game vs. the Green Bay Packers, Martavis Bryant filled in and had two kickoff returns for 58-yards. The job he did was enough to give him another shot at the duty in Week 13 against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
In that game Bryant broke free for a long would-be touchdown return if not for J.J. Wilcox being called for holding on the play. Electrifying was the only word to describe watching Bryant reach full speed as he ran down the length of the field leaving nothing but Bengals in his wake.
Then came the Week 14 Sunday night game against the Ravens, and it was bad. Baltimore purposefully kicked short to force Bryant to handle the football, and the result was a near safety, and Bryant fumbling the football and forcing the offense to start deep within their own territory.
Against the New England Patriots, the Steelers’ opponent in Week 15, you cannot afford to have these type of errors and expect to win the game. With that said, the Steelers have made a change, and removed Bryant off of kickoff return duties.
Martavis Bryant said he has been removed from kickoff-return duty for this week.— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) December 14, 2017
“I just didn’t do the job of fielding the ball. I’m not trippin’ over it or anything; I’m not going to get down because I’m not doing kickoff returns.”
As stated by Chris Adamski of TribLive.com, Bryant doesn’t seem fazed by the demotion, but it isn’t as if this was an expected skill of his in 2017, or even as he entered the draft coming out of Clemson.
With the team taking Bryant off the special teams unit, they will now turn back to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Fitzgerald Toussaint as the primary return men for the team. The team doesn’t have a pure returner on the team, and the short kick the Ravens attempted the entire game could be a sign of things to come until the Steelers prove they can return the ball consistently past the 25-yard line.