The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation for making shrewd business decisions as an organization. Their status as a successful NFL franchise has been built mainly via an ultra-conservative approach, both with their personnel and finances.
This modus operandi doesn’t lend itself to many flashy transactions in the form of trades or free-agent signings, but it still has led to some solid, if not spectacular, roster additions.
The Steelers are always looking for a good deal. They may often appear to be frugal — some might even say “cheap” for lack of a better word — but they’re simply searching for what they feel is fair compensation in any transaction.
I believed Kevin Colbert when he repeatedly said that the Steelers were not interested in trading the uber-talented-but-troubled Martavis Bryant, and I still do. Why would he want to trade a player whose only real value to the team was in whatever production he could offer the team next season to help them pursue another Super Bowl championship? Bryant struggled to find his groove for most of last season after being reinstated from a yearlong suspension. But even more troubling than his on-field difficulties were his continuing struggles with immaturity and decision-making off of the field.
Nobody was going to offer the Steelers fair compensation for Bryant the player because of all the baggage of Bryant the person — at least not until they did.
Thank you to Jon Gruden and all of Raiders Nation. Al Davis would be proud.
You just got yourselves the perfect Raiders player.
Mr. Davis was infatuated with speed. He loved fast players, especially at the skill positions. He wanted his quarterbacks to take seven step drops and fire the ball deep to his stable of burners.
He also had an affinity, a soft spot if you will, for players that had been labeled with bad-boy reputations. He wanted every malcontent or castoff with baggage that he could find. He loved to rescue abandoned players off of the scrap heap and resurrect their careers. This wasn’t done out of the goodness of his heart per se, but it sure did stroke his ego and gave him multiple opportunities to display his own perceived superiority to the other owners and stick it in the face of the NFL, with whom he always seemed to be at war with over one thing or another.
Al Davis would have loved him some Martavis Bryant. He would have crowed from the rooftops how he had acquired the Freak. He wouldn’t care that Martavis is basically a one-trick pony because that one trick was Al’s obsession. He wouldn’t be asking him to do anything else. Just be well conditioned enough to run the deep post pattern for the entire game and strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses.
The Raiders offered the Steelers a third-round pick, which they really needed considering they didn’t have a fourth round pick this year, for a former fourth-rounder in Bryant who had never really lived up to his nickname or his potential and had plenty of off-field issues to boot. We also shouldn’t forget the Steelers were going to lose him at the end of the upcoming season with little to no compensation. Counting on a compensatory pick would have been a real gamble.
The Steelers might have not been actively shopping Bryant, but they pulled the trigger on that deal.
Then, on the second day of the draft, the Steelers used their second-round pick to select wide receiver James Washington from Oklahoma State.
As a college player, Washington was far superior to Bryant, both statistically and in accolades. Washington won the 2017 Biletnikoff Award for the most outstanding college wide receiver last season. Bryant wasn’t even the best receiver on his college team.
Washington has displayed a knack for catching the deep ball and appears to already run a more diverse route tree than Bryant — all while possessing superior hands and the ability to high-point the ball on contested throws, which unexpectedly turned out to be a weakness for Bryant considering his height and athleticism.
I remain convinced that Washington would have been a first-round pick if he would have run a faster 40 time, but I’m glad he didn’t because it allowed the Steelers to get a great value pick in the second round.
Washington’s superior work ethic and character are well known and he should fit in nicely with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
I admit I’m a Martavis Bryant fan at heart. I’ll continue to root for him as a player, except when he plays the Steelers. Hopefully he will develop chemistry with Raiders QB Derek Carr and be embraced by Raiders Nation.
And maybe now Jon Gruden will finally learn to pronounce his name correctly.